The Fall is cinematic Marmite – it evokes extreme reactions. Trade rag Variety hated it: "There's something appalling about a vanity project that takes this much time, money and energy to make (shot in nearly two dozen countries)…"
Well, it's possible to do a Find and Replace on that review and others: for 'appalling' read 'admirable'; for 'vanity' read 'passion'. The Fall is a lush, audacious, fabulous concoction – the reasons it's damned are reasons to adore it: for its whimsy, indulgence, ambition...
It is a wandering wonder; embrace its aesthetic and it will reaffi rm your faith in the movies. Promo auteur Tarsem probably best known
as the man behind REM's 'Losing My Religion' video – self-funded the film through his advertising gigs, location-hopping thanks to Nike, Smirnoff et al. So, it was created on the hoof, but you wouldn't know it because the visuals are extraordinary. Freeze each frame and you could re-stock the Tate. But the same could be said of 2000's The Cell, Tarsem's serial-killer thriller, where the style and sheen couldn't disguise the sluggish, vacuous narrative.
Here, story is the subject, as paraplegic stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) spins a saga to a fellow patient, the young, inquisitive Alexandria(Catinca Untaru). His words are filtered through her imagination and their humdrum existence in a 1920s LA hospital is interrupted by her mental flights of fancy, where Roy is The Black Bandit, seeking to destroy Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). As people from Alexandria's everyday existence are reinvented in her mind, The Fall becomes a thematic cousin to The Wizard Of Oz, where fantasy refracts everyday hopes and fears. Tonally, though, it stands alone and unique.
If there's a flaw it's that the stop-start, ramshackle nature of a child's story sometimes becomes frustrating. However, the director's flair
(there's a match-cut that warrants comparison with 2001's bone-to-spaceship manoeuvre) is lent warmth by terrific performances from
Untaru and Pace, who ensure tears will eventually soothe any eyes starched by staring at the sumptuous visuals.