The Fall (2006) (R)

There's something about children that evokes a childish imagination, a fairy-tale landscape. We see people flirt with this idea in books and movies from "The Chronicles of Narnia" to "Alice in Wonderland" and the list goes on. Children inhabit a land of fairy tales, and story-telling is exclusively for them. Yet never has a film given such power to the narrative story to a child! It is not only them as the listener, but it is them as the participant and the visualizer, therefore, it is their version of the story that we are seeing. "The Fall" takes this very seriously, making sure that we understand the levels of complexity within the story.
A man tells a story to a girl who then listens and imagines it...simple enough, right? Well, not so much because the girl holds the power over the viewer and sometimes the teller of the story. It's a vicious circle, a type of reverse maze that snakes backwards and starts to eat its on tail. But I wouldn't have it any other way, because it does not take long for the audience to understand what is happening...and for that, the trust that is placed into the viewers hands, I have to applaud the film.
Beginning in the early 20th century, we are set at a hospital, where a collection of odd characters bed next to each other, just needing to recuperate and get well. A young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is here with a broken arm. Deeply inquisitive and confident well beyond her years, she explores the grounds of the hospital and runs into an interesting man named Roy (Lee Pace). Roy seems to be suffering from a broken heart as well as broken legs. He pines daily for a lost love and Alexandria cannot quite understand the situation. She's mainly interested in the stories that he starts to tell.
When Roy speaks, the film reinvents itself and becomes a visually stunning full-blown masterpiece of the highest order. The craftsmanship of the film is so deft and clever that many scenes are flawlessly executed with only the slightest humor injected about the nature of the story itself.
The figures in the story are an explosives expert, a masked bandit, an Indian, Charles Darwin, and an ex-slave. The camera likes to ogle the make-form, which, you know, is fine with me; but it also grounds the masculine story-telling in a childlike world because often the men look ridiculous or sound weird doing the certain things they do. This is where Roy and Alexandria meet in the middle and the story formed is a child of both of theirs.
You could see "The Fall" as "The English Patient" or "Atonement" or a number of other movies, but essentially you would be lost trying to come up with a keen similarity because "The Fall" rings true of its own melody. Director Tarsem twists and curves the narrative story so minimally that it lulls you into a sense of security. The emotional power the movie has is quite overwhelming.
Movies like this: that try to accomplish something intellectual, that visually satisfy, and that emotionally bewilder make it clear that film is an art form far from dead.
"The Fall" gives Lee Pace a great platform to show his acting skills and his performance is wonderful; but ultimately the movie belongs to Catinca Untaru. Her presence is often underplayed, yet so vital that the thought of the film without her makes an empty canvas for bright colors.
"The Fall" is clever, brilliant, evocative, stunning, and fun. It's humorous, epic, and dramatic, an opera for the eyes and ears. A world within a world within a story, and what a beautiful, lovely, complex knot of intricacies this is.

Score: ★★★★

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