Hey, so you know The Princess Bride? Well, The Fall is like The Princess Bride as an art film. It's the story of a stuntman from the early days of Hollywood recuperating from, well, a fall. His name is Roy Walker, and he's played by Lee Pace, who at the time was best known for the quirky TV series Pushing Daisies, but has since appeared in Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies and Guardians of the Galaxy.
This movie was a passion project for director Tarsem, by the way. He labored for four years and largely financed it himself, and finally saw it hit the film festival circuit in 2006, although its theatrical release didn't happen until 2008. Championed by David Fincher and Spike Jonze, The Fall garnered a rapturous review from the late Roger Ebert, but has otherwise languished in obscurity in the years that have followed. It doesn't help that Tarsem has since become better known for The Immortals, Mirror Mirror, and Self/less, all of which failed to connect solidly with audiences or critics. His earlier film The Cell, like the rest of his work, is well worth considering in the context of Tarsem's creative vision, and by itself.
But I'm here to sing the praises of The Fall. If nothing else, please watch this film. Here's a list of IMDb quotes from the movie to get you into it. Most of the exchanges are between Roy and Alexandria, the precocious girl who's half the reason this movie works so exceptionally well. The interplay, the pathos, and the humanity exhibited between them is breathtaking. What Alexandria can't possibly realize, or appreciate, is that Roy is contemplating suicide the entire time she knows him. He's heartsick over the loss his girlfriend to another member of the film production. He spins incredible tales to amuse Alexandria, and the more time they spend together, the more the tales become a collaboration (whether Roy likes it or not).
The Princess Bride is an ingenious fairy tale told by a grandfather to his ailing grandson. Yet you can forget the layers of The Princess Bride the more you get into its many fascinating characters. Well, how about Governor Odious? The name alone is outstanding. He's the villain of The Fall, the enemy of a whole host of heroes, including a young Charles Darwin. Like The Wizard of Oz, Roy draws from people he and Alexandria know from the hospital, so that we get to know characters in various guises, including Roy himself, whom Alexandria eventually makes the star of the story as it takes shape, and she becomes his daughter.
Yeah. And the art of it is a whole different level of what's to appreciate about The Fall. If The Princess Bride is impossibly romantic, then The Fall is impossibly beautiful. I think the only reason it's not better known is that it wasn't widely released and it's so hard to completely explain, except by analogy. Which is why I'm making such a hard sell with the Princess Bride comparison. Except some people won't give something a chance if it evokes a cherished experience, because some people will never let something touch their cherished experiences, and The Princess Bride has only become more and more beloved as time has passed.
The Fall is like that. I'm not just saying that because it is for me, but because it's such a complete experience, something you really do need to see to believe, that you will watch again, and again, and still feel as if you haven't fully appreciated it. It's a truly great film, and it's life-affirming in the best possible way, with an ending that you will laugh over and cheer for, and possibly even cry during...
Just watch it already. You'll thank me later.