Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Fall...

There is a train on the bridge. Few men are shouting and running, few are gazing down. They use a rope to drag something out of water under the bridge. Something must have fallen when the train was in motion. After a moment, we come to know that it was a horse. With a visual quality like that of prolonged dream dreamt by Dali and Jung, The Fall drags the viewer into a world where reality and imagination merge so that the film’s characters can take refuge into the world of the mind to escape the gravity of existence. It is a unique film, unique in the real sense of the word, and relies heavily on images than on a fixed plot.

The story takes place at Los Angles, 1915, in a hospital where half of the beds are neatly made but empty. On one of the beds, we see Roy (Lee Pace), a silent movie stuntman, who has injured himself badly and cannot walk. There is a small girl called Alexandria who roams around the hospital the way friendless kids do to pass time. She peaks into the nurse’s room now and then who is apparently the only person she is most comfortable with, she regularly meets an old patient who removes his teethes to amuse her, but she is loitering alone most of the time. She drops around Roy’s bed by chance and they form an odd company. Roy tells her an adventurous story that involves a black bandit (whose is Roy himself), an Italian anarchist, an escaped African slave, an Indian, Charles Darwin and his pet monkey; they are deserted on an island, they have their own reasons to kill Governor Odious, and they escape from the island riding swimming elephants. Though Roy tells the story, the visuals that we encounter are the output of Alexandria’s imagination – of what Alexandria makes of Roy’s story. There are words she does not understand, and she imagines something different from what Roy intends. The Fall gains its momentum slowly and steadily – it shifts from the story Roy is telling to the reality of Roy in the most unusual narrative structure I have encountered.

Roy is paralyzed and is dumped by the woman he loves. He wants to kill himself but since he cannot walk, he wants someone to bring morphine pills from the medicine room. The story he tells to Alexandria is just a bait to make her bring the pills. Alexandria on the other hand has found a good company in Roy, a good friend who tells her stories. Both of them have little to live for in the real world. Alexandria tells in passing that bad people burned her house; Roy asks her “who?”; “bad people” she replies in her innocent diction. Her father is dead and she does not want to leave the hospital to go back to her mother. Roy’s story makes her feel excited, and it helps in forming an odd bond between the two. “We are an odd pair”, Roy tells her once. The film is not without poignant moments. There is life affirmation near the end of the film as well. Bleakness is a phase that has to pass, and if one has company during such period, that to of someone like Alexandria’s, the train leaves the tunnel a little faster.

But what is fantastic about this film is that the story within the story moves, shape-shifts, and changes based on the mood of Roy and Alexandria. The Labyrinth of despair from which the only escape is death, the blue city, Darwin’s monkey chasing the butterfly, the zigzag staircase, man appearing from a burning tree – these are few of the visuals worth mentioning. They are worth watching for the only reason that there is not a single trace of computer-generated animation seen in the film. It took Tarsem Singh (a lesser-known Indian director whose first film was The Cell, and who has directed music videos for Deep Forest) four years to complete this film, and he traveled across twenty-eight countries to shoot it. The result is awe-inspiring, a visual treat of the highest order. It is undoubtedly a movie made with utmost passion for images. I hardly know about any other film that is even close to this one.

No comments: