Tarsem Singh’s second feature, The Fall (2006), is the third of his films I’ve seen to date and it is undoubtedly the best. While I love Immortals (2011) for its impressive visuals and beautiful cast, and Mirror Mirror (2012) for its fun, sweet atmosphere and charming leads, The Fall is everything I loved about the other two films and more. They are all, though, fresh and interesting takes on familiar stories and genres.
Filmed over four years and in more than twenty different countries, The Fall is undoubtedly a passion project (apparently largely funded by Singh himself) and it is certainly shows.
The story takes place in a hospital in Los Angeles (‘once upon a time’), and centres on Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a young girl who has broken her arm and Roy (Lee Pace) a heartbroken, stuntman who is befriended by Alexandria. Roy begins to tell Alexandria the story of a group of bandits, who are brought together by their combined desire to kill the evil Governor Odious. It incorporates fantasy and reality, by way of the story Roy tells Alexandria. As the story and the film progress, fantasy and reality start to blur, largely due to Alexandria’s own imagination.
The opening sequence, a slow motion silent movie stunt shot in black and white and scored by Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, is gorgeous and had me captivated straight away.
It’s more emotionally engaging than his other films, as well, due in large part to Lee Pace’s moving portrayal of heartbroken Roy and the absolutely enchanting Alexandria. There are some really lovely moments between them and their interactions are very natural. (Apparently most of Untaru’s dialogue was unscripted, and her reactions real, which I had wondered while watching the film).
It looks breathtaking. Singh’s visual style is always something to marvel at but it is at its best here where there is more space for it to work. In some instances, this is quite literal, with many wide shots of landscapes and architecture, some of which take on the qualities of a flat textured painting. By comparison, his other films seem claustrophobic (though no less stunning).
All three of Singh’s films I’ve seen have had costumes designed by the late Eiko Ishioka (you can see more about the costumes of Immortals and Mirror Mirror in this post). Has there ever been another costume designer quite like Ishioka? Her synthesis of influences (from Byzantine, to Japanese dress, and more) always resulted in beautiful, unique creations. I love how sculptural a lot of her work was, too.
Masks and veils are prominently featured in this film, highlighting what Roy is hiding from Alexandria, the assumed deception of his once girlfriend as well as what we all hide from each other and ourselves. They are also just very striking.
The Fall is a very moving, gorgeous, funny film that I look forward to revisiting. It took me a long time to get around to watching it and I’m more than glad I finally did.