For a film about story telling, to me its selling point is in the visuals. The opening monochromatic shots in this 2006 film by Tarsem Singh made me feel like I was about to embark on a Dead Man style cinematic journey set in old Hollywood. However, it was just a taste of the rich visual elements to come.
Filmed in more than twenty countries over the course of four years, The Fall takes viewers on a global round trip without the need to leave their seats. Colourful and elaborate costumes are a welcome addition to the exotic backdrops. They may seem over the top, but you have to remember that this is a children’s story that is being told and subsequently visualized through the eyes of a little girl. Characters for children must have distinct features so that they can be easily distinguished from one another by something as simple as a single colour. Darwin’s coat, Otto Benga’s horned helmet, and the Bandit’s mask became iconic symbols in the film. I liked how they didn’t blend into the stunning backgrounds and locations, but rather, they stood out and added to the fantastical element.
It didn’t matter where Singh placed his characters, they were always very visible, whether it was in a desert, a green orchard, or even in front of a brightly dyed cloth. This is a brilliant way to keep the focus on them, while allowing appreciation of the carefully chosen backgrounds.
I thought that the introduction and interaction between the two main characters, Roy (Lee Pace) and Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), was very genuine. After watching some behind the scenes footage it becomes clear that this is what Singh was striving for. Working with child actors can be difficult I imagine, but from the final product I could see that the director took the right approach to bring out a great performance from little Catinca. She has just the right amount of curiosity and mischievousness while still retaining that ever present child’s innocence. It is admirable that she was not pushed to over act and portray behaviors in a way that no five year old child would. Her reactions to the events in the story told by Roy and those in the main plot line are as genuine as can be in a film.
Lee Pace easily switches between the heroic bandit and the damaged Roy, which closer to the conclusion reveals itself to be a necessary distinction between fantasy and reality when the line dividing them begins to blur. I won’t get into the ending of course, but be prepared to have your heart strings pulled at. This film can easily be watched many times over to nitpick the symbolism, but for the first time, just sit back and enjoy this labour of love from Tarsem Singh.
A visually stunning film supported by the strong genuine performances of its two leads. Give this film a chance if you are looking for a feast for the eyes. Even if you are not a fan of slower movies, the bold colours and exotic locations will keep you drawn in.
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Cast includes Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, and Daniel Caltagirone