I groaned when I saw the words “David Fincher and Spike Jonze present” on the DVD case of Tarsem Singh’s The Fall (2006). “Great—two of my least favorite filmmakers,” I muttered, even while being conscious that this was a film that had been enthusiastically recommended to me by people who know something of my tastes and whose opinions I tend to trust. After a couple hours of some of the most mind-blowing imagery and deceptively complex storytelling, some things were clear—not the least of which was that I had seen something at least close to greatness and that one viewing barely scratched the surface of what I suspected was in the film. At the same time, I was—and am—utterly baffled by the fact that The Fall never played in Asheville theatrically. I am delighted to be involved in at least kind of rectifying that.
The story line of The Fall is actually several story lines that interconnect and, in a sense, form a single story. In terms of plot, it’s about an injured (paralyzed) stuntman, Roy Walker (Lee Pace), telling a fantastic story to a little girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who’s hospitalized with a broken arm. The story is depicted from her point of view, which results into its details being drawn from her surroundings and her perception of them. There’s more to it than that, because Roy has reasons for befriending her and telling her this story. But I’m neither revealing what that is, nor am I revealing the very dark turn the film takes, nor any of the surprises that crop up along the way.
The Fall is often praised—and rightly so—for its incredible visuals and nonstop stylishness. I have no problem with that, except that I think I’m equally taken by its thematic implications, the way it moves in and out of the story, and the cumulative sense that when all is said and done—from its stunning opening (set to the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) to its final scenes—it’s also a movie about the movies. I don’t feel qualified to say more until I’ve seen the film a second time (at which time it may well move from four-and-a-half stars to the full five), because I’m certain it’s only slightly given up its mysteries.
But I do have a question for all of you who’ve been after me to catch up with this movie—why did it never occur to any of you to note that the movie has serious simian value? It not only has simian value, it rethinks the ending of All Quiet on the Western Front in terms of simian value! Had someone told me this, chances are it wouldn’t have taken me nearly so long to see it.