The Fall–Go See This Movie

The Fall is one of the most visually striking movies you’re likely to see, but the fantasy element is firmly tied to the emotional resonance of the realistic scenes set in a hospital. Some reviewers have complained that the fantasy element is inconsistent, but it is in fact, for the most part, brilliantly inconsistent.

A man who has lost the use of his legs tells stories to a child to manipulate her into getting him morphine. He has no interest in internal consistency–and in fact as his aims change and the child’s interests shift, the story shifts, as it should. If the child eventually inhabits the fantasy story, it is because she has taken some ownership of that story. The best description I can give for this movie is that it’s Pan’s Labyrinth meets Baron Munchausen. It has neither the escapist quality of the latter nor the political element of the former. It also features a bit of a self-absorbed bastard as the lead, but he has good reasons for his attitude. My only warning would be if you think melodrama should never be a part of a movie, stay away. And if you think fantasy images can’t convey emotional resonance, stay away as well. The child actor, btw–she is amazing.

One moment of restraint that typifies how much I enjoyed this movie. At one point birds issue forth from a man’s mouth. In a Hollywood film they would be the iridescent plumage of excess. In this film, they’re mottled and drab, the emphasis entirely on the miracle of their emergence.

Comments

  1. Eric M. Van says

    Sonya Taaffe and I saw this as soon as it hit Boston, based on the 50% of reviewers (including Ebert) who loved it. As did we. We’re still talking about it and will be back to see it again, with a crew in tow, after Readercon (assuming it’s still playing).

    That fully half of our published film critics have no apparent concept of an unreliable narrator and completely failed to get the movie is mind-boggling, as hard for me to process as half the country not believing in evolution. Especially considering that a) the screenwriters (director Tarsem and two collaborators) were aware of this and go out of their way to hammer the point home, by having the little girl complain about the logic of the storyteller’s first attempt at a story, and forcing him to start over, and b) virtually everyone who sees this movie who isn’t a film critic does get it – it has an 8.4 rating on IMDB and is their 14th highest rated fantasy film of all time (10th if you collapse Star Wars and Lord of the Rings), ahead of the likes of Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and The Princess Bride even after adjusting for the very small number of votes.

    (IMDB voters are as a rule a better guide than film critics: Stars Wars, LOTR, It’s a Wonderful Life, Spirited Away, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Seventh Seal, The Prestige, The Wizard of Oz, Princess Mononoke, The Fall — that’s a pretty ferociously good top 10.)

  2. says

    Eric:

    Thanks for this. I totally agree. It bothers the heck out of me because in this case they’d have to assume the filmmakers were brain-damaged to believe this wasn’t intentional. The girl is constantly questioning the story and it’s constantly changing.

    So glad others have liked this one as much as I did.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  3. GlenH says

    Good fantasies for adults are in periously short supply. Here’s to hoping this makes it to Australia.

  4. says

    Dammit, I live in a decent sized city, why won’t it play here? I’ve been wanting to see it for months.

  5. Eric M. Van says

    Just saw this for a second time and I will not hesitate to declare it a work of genius, a masterpiece, etc., and, right now, one of my 15 favorite films of all time. My friend Anita Roy Dobbs, whose taste is impeccable, had the same reaction on her first viewing (“I want to own it and see it once a month.”) When a film is this over-the-top ambitious, so full of *stuff, it’s often hard to tell on a first viewing just how much in control the director is. Indeed, the 50% negative reviews (and even many of the positive ones) are of the opinion that the film is “a mess.” On second viewing, it’s about as messy as a diamond (yet wonderfully organic). The tonal shifts, which many find jarring, are the opposite of arbitrary and cease to be tonal shifts at all once you’re flowing with the film at the meta-level of the storytellers rather than the story. I think that every frame is this is a marvel and not a one is superfluous. Wow.

  6. Eric M. Van says

    Just realized that (since tastes differ so wildly) the assertion at the end of the first sentence might be more helpful if I gave the favorite 20 list: LOTR trilogy, Donnie Darko, Memento, Eraserhead, The Frisco Kid, 2001, O Lucky Man!, Vertigo, The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Strangelove, The Prestige, Blade Runner, Manhattan, Koyaanisqatsi, The Fall, Sunset Blvd., Young Frankenstein, Chinatown, Forbidden Planet, Primer.

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  8. says

    Yes ? like it.

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  1. […] From Jeff VanDermeer (click through for the trailer on YouTube): The Fall is one of the most visually striking movies you’re likely to see, but the fantasy element is firmly tied to the emotional resonance of the realistic scenes set in a hospital. Some reviewers have complained that the fantasy element is inconsistent, but it is in fact, for the most part, brilliantly inconsistent. [emphasis his] […]