As a kid, I remember video stores. Walking down aisles lined with empty boxes. Some stacked in front of a colorless, odorless VHS container; Others alone proudly boasting that their film was out to rent. These were the days before the internet and magnificent sites, such as the one you are on now. Movie decisions were made on that box cover image, the words across it and sometimes the synopsis on the back. On this particular occasion, I revisited my youth and started scrollng through the box covers and landed here.
I was intrigued, but the fine print sold it. Presented by David Fincher and Spike Jonze. From past experience, I knew that these two make movies (Fight Club and Being John Malkovich, respectively) that tickle the high minded. Directed by Tarsem, who previosly had done ‘The Cell’, this film promised some serious eye candy and that was enough for me.
Set in a hospital in Los Angeles circa 1915, The Fall tells the story of a young girl with a broken arm and another patient spinning yarns, to which the girl becomes enthralled. The Fall, essentially, is an exploration of shared hallucinations. The relationship between the story teller and the audience. How can the story manipulate. In the first order we can easily see how a story works from mouth to ear. His words vibrating into her mind and transforming into wonder. And this is the masterful moment of the film. That wonder captured with the fidelity of the young girls imagination.
With our belief in reality suspended, we too inhabit this incoherent juvenile fantasy replete with mythological transferences of the world we have yet to comprehend. While the psychological frame might be a bit flimsy, the imagery is certainly not. The film oscillates between the hospital and the fantasy epic. Just like the little girl, I find myself longing for more of the fantasy, just to see what it will look like. Shot across 18 countries and a wardrobe of increasingly bombastic costumes, the imaginary allegory is scintillating.
The only flaw is in the second order of the shared hallucination. The effect of the follower on the priest. The fantasy is tailored for the congregation. In this case, the solitary girl. As we move along, the act of telling the story and manipulating her mind creates a reverberation that strikes back at the teller. While the cycle does complete, it comes across without the sincerity we found in the first charming acts of the film.
From this audience member, I felt wholly like a member of the clandestine fellowship bringing the story to life, but as the film tried to incorporate deeper themes, it outstretched the skill of its makers. Where the first 3/4 of the film showed impeccable taste, the climax was strained and oddly bland.
With the right frame of mind, I strongly recommend The Fall for marinauts looking for some eye candy somewhere between The Princess Bride and Terry Gilliam’s more whimsical fare. If you are a stickler for crushingly real despair and could care less for arresting imagery, walk on down the aisle and find another box cover.
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