By Gianna Crespo
It is very seldom that a piece of cinematography sticks out to individual viewers as a work of art, let alone teach people something valuable. However, one film in particular has proven to achieve both and more. Tarsem Singh’s independent film, The Fall, tells a vivid tale of adventure, heartbreak, and redemption. The Fall can be considered the greatest film of all time due to the incredible visuals and filming locations utilized, the depth of the relationship between the two main characters as a driving force of the movie and the important message it portrays. Together, these factors set the framework of what became a beautiful work of cinematography, which is still praised for its artistic endeavor.
Having decided The Fall was going to be void of the use and effects of CGI, Singh spent hard-earned money and four years of his life filming the project in over 28 countries. Instead, the movie’s art direction would be focused on the landscapes and geography that contribute to the storyline’s integrity, differentiating from the average Hollywood film that strays away from live action special effects. The New York Times says the film is “full of sights that provoke genuine astonishment: an underwater shot of an elephant swimming gracefully overhead, a palace courtyard built out of interlocking staircases that might have been designed by M. C. Escher”. Singh himself manipulated the angles and frames through which the images would be seen, therefore constructing what is mistakened to be a CGI enhanced image. Instead, according to Roger Ebert, Singh takes an ordinary location and transforms it into surrealistic visuals, such as a 600 year old reservoir that creates the illusion of “zig-zagging interlocking black and white staircases reaching down into the earth”. Other visuals include the famous “Labyrinth With no Escape” which is an old and cheap looking observatory in India that was shot from certain angles to make it look enclosed and hopeless. Though it sounds simple, it seems literally impossible when one sees the quality of the film. The breathtaking visuals from which the scenes are derived from can be found largely in Asia and parts of Asia and Africa, and are better than what CGI has to offer.
In addition to the geography, the friendship that forms between the main characters, stuntman Roy Walker and 6-year-old Alexandria, combine storytelling and imagination to make up the majority of the movie’s plot. Paralyzed by a stunt gone wrong and depressed because his girlfriend left him for the lead man of a starring movie, Roy is admitted to the downstairs wing of the hospital where Alexandria is treated for a broken arm. They accidentally meet, but Roy uses the opportunity to captivate Alexandria with an epic tale that is eventually revealed to symbolize his life and ulterior motives. Daniel Garrett says, “There’s a playfulness in the storytelling as Roy’s tale involves people around the hospital…as the disjointed tale is embellished by Alexandria’s overactive imagination”. The line between reality and fantasy become blurred as pieces of Alexandria’s life become interlaced with the story’s events, such as Roy manipulating her to steal “sleeping pills’ so that he could commit suicide, therefore, killing off the bandit in the story that she imagines to be him. Though it is a failed attempt, Alexandria tries to steal more and injures herself in the process. As all the characters in their story are killed off one by one Alexandria begs Roy to let the masked bandit live, pleading with him not to take his own life. As a result, Roy learns to rethink his perspective on life and promises not to kill himself, giving both characters the happy ending they deserve, and the audience a way to feel as they can relate to both Roy’s despair and Alexandria’s hope for her dear friend.
Lastly, the film’s resolution is an important one to contemplate as it reflects real-life situations today. Though Alexandria is just a child, she experiences adventure, infidelity, heartbreak, the desire for justice and the acceptance of death through Roy’s storytelling. Just like Alexandria, people turn to stories to find what they are looking for, and to escape the harsh reality they are set in. Though it was difficult for Roy to see the positive in life after his breakup and his paralysis, he eventually learns to view the world in less romanticized terms. Roy’s story gave Alexandria’s mediocre life a new purpose while Alexandria helped him emerge from a life of despair to one with a newfound sense of hope. The love and affection these characters have for each other are genuine and reflect the unique relationship that the actors Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru had on set. It is also relevant for people struggling with depression and the support they receive from loved ones, and their decision to stay strong and get better as Roy has.
In conclusion, Singh’s The Fall is a movie of talent in both art and cinematography. It will be best remembered by the authenticity of the locations scouted, how the characters interact with each other, and the relevance of the emotions felt and message received when experiencing this fantasy movie. Such a movie can be unrivaled by no other.
Header photo from Rottentomatoes.com