One evening during the 2008 Edinburgh Film Festival I found myself getting into a conversation about “must see” movies being screened during the fortnight. One of those present was The Telegraph’s Tim Robey who waxed lyrical about a virtually unknown film from director Tarsem Singh called The Fall.
Although I’d never heard of the film I made a mental note to see it, only to be asked the following day to interview its director, Tarsem for a future issue of The Skinny. Suddenly this little-known film was becoming something much more interesting. Within a few days I had voted it my number one of the Festival.
Now arriving on Blu-ray and DVD, after a limited release in cinemas at the end of last year, there’s a chance for this oddity, fourteen years in the making, to finally gain itself a wider audience and this is perhaps my last chance to convince possible purchasers to part with their hard earned cash. Deep breathe then…
It’s 1915 Los Angeles and movie stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) is recovering in hospital after an on-set accident which has left him paralysed. Depressed and needing someone to steal morphine so he can commit suicide, Roy befriends fellow patient Alexandria (Catinca Untara), a young girl with a broken arm whom Roy starts to weave a story for, a story of magic and high adventure that will bribe her into helping him.
Vast deserts, rocky terrain and wide vistas, filmed across 26 countries, are the backdrop for Roy’s tale, the quest to defeat the evil Governor Odious. As Roy and Alexandria get to know each other better, their interaction becomes just as intriguing as the fantasy epic taking place inside their heads.
It’s in the more intimate moments that the performance of Catinca comes to the fore, her unaffected performance caught like lightning in a bottle by Tarsem. In one of the two commentaries on the Blu-Ray, actor Lee Pace notes the effort he went to to make sure the first time actress got enough light on her face during her scenes, something that a more professional actress would be fighting for.
Tarsem notes on his commentary the effort he went to to keep the fact that Pace could really walk from Catinca. The scenes that take place in Roy’s ward are both tragic and touching, the interaction between man and girl perfectly judged. Catinca’s confusion at exactly what is going on around her is palpable, her love for Pace/Roy evident.
The hospital scenes are the real heart of the film and it might have been interesting to see a different cut of the picture on this disc, one where the dream sequences are excised to leave a more pared down tale.
Visually this Blu-ray is the next best thing to seeing it at your local cinema, the ocean around Butterfly Reef a glorious blue, the desert a rich, deep red. Fight scenes are smooth here, the beads of sweat and drops of blood from combatants impressively clear up close.
Perhaps best compared stylistically to films such as The Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz, The Fall is a glorious attempt to make the type of bold entertainment that film money men must balk at while still managing to sneak in an old fashioned weepie somewhere in between the swords and sandals.
Beautiful, epic and yet still intimate, this is a film to search out and to tell your friends about, a truly original film that is clearly in love with cinema and that might just help you fall in love with it all over again.
Two commentaries, one from director Tarsem and the other from actor Lee Pace, writer/producer Nico Soultanakis and writer Dan Gilroy, help shine some light on the production, the making of the film almost as epic as the fantasy sequences seen on-screen. Pace in particular still has real passion for the project.
An hour long making-of documentary is refreshingly light on the usual talking heads while a couple of deleted scenes are interesting though not vital to your enjoyment.
- Released by: Momentum Pictures
- Release Date: 26 January
- Certificate: 15
- Price: Blu-ray £24.99, DVD £17.99
- Running Time: 118 approx
- Cat No: Blu-ray MP795BR DVD MP795D