A vibrant mixture of lucid images and ambiguous subtexts, “The Fall” by Tarsem is a free descent from reality into the domain of impossible. Having spent a fortune to film it, Tarsem has produced a movie that calls for watching it because of its sheer existence. Being a postmodernist story within a story, today, the movie can become the epitome of storytelling that invokes a synesthetic perception of irrationality and haphazard symbols making up a perfectly logical picture towards the end.
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The master storyteller here is Roy, a paralyzed stunt performer, telling a story to Alexandria, a child of Hispanic origin, whose house was devastated by the war. The girl’s imagination visualizes the story, picturing people around her as characters. While Roy is being quite friendly, he tries to earn Alexandria’s loyalty to get her to steal morphine pills for him so that he could end his life. The reason being, his loved one has abandoned him for the actor he was deputizing. Eventually, the girl slides into the pharmacy to get the pills but falls and hurts her head. Later, Roy comes to see her and she talks him into continuing his story (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).
The plot summarized without the inner story in it appears somewhat bland. However, it would be wrong to argue that this movie does not have any drama. Roy the storyteller discloses himself as quite a complex personality when one realizes that each of the characters he summons to life in his story represents a part of himself. His psyche is crumbling and his feelings are too overwhelming to stay within his mind – which is why he creates the Bandit, Otto, the Indian, Charles Darwin, and Luigi to contain them. The Bandit, for one, is the perfect Roy, the one he would like to be. Otto, the runaway slave, is a depiction of Roy’s distress with his physical condition and his desire to escape. The Indian had his loved one taken away from him just like Roy; this character is his devastation and loneliness.
Luigi, the destructor, is the illustration of Roy’s desire to end his life. It is noticeable that Luigi’s explosives never work up to the end, which demonstrate Roy’s frustration at his inability to kill himself. Charles Darwin is a significant figure here. The only one who does not carry a weapon, the contemplator and the peacemaker, Darwin is the voice of reason and clear mind. When other characters are on the point of either explosion or murder, he is the one who comes up with rational ideas. More importantly, he is the first one to die when Roy starts to get rid of the characters. Desperate and broken, Roy has to silence the still small voice that belonged to his conscience and common sense. Charles Darwin is the one that the viewer sympathises with and hopes that, in the end, intelligence wins.
As said, there is a plethora of symbols in the movie. Teeth, for one, are a symbol of power and strength. When the Mystic appears, we notice that she has all her teeth while in reality, Alexandria has just lost her baby teeth. Animals have a great part in the movie as well. Butterflies, for one, might be regarded as the image of the soul. Trapped in the Butterfly island, the characters represent souls with their backs to the wall, inevitably going to succumb. Also, the dead butterfly pinned through its heart, is the metaphor of how Roy might feel after he was abandoned. Elephants are yet another metaphor. Commonly known as a symbol of luck, they help the characters escape. One of Alexandria’s treasures is a tiny figure of an elephant; also, with her empty sleeve behind her back, the girl herself resembles Ganesha, the Indian elephant-headed god.
As to the meaning of the title, it is a multifold symbol traceable throughout the movie. The falling has a metaphoric meaning and can be noticed as a component of clever word play. The images of falling include the protagonists’ falling that result into them being hospitalized; also, the Indian’s woman falling from the tower, followed by the falling of other characters and Alexandria falling in the hospital the other time. Another critical fall is that of the coffee cup. When the cup is down, the viewer can see Roy’s eyes focused not on the spilled coffee but on the razor in the glass next to it (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). As a word play, one can see Roy falling into the depths of desperation and Alexandria falling in love.
The lighting and camera effects, especially the ones deployed to create the story within the story, make the film vivid. It can be said that the director uses the techniques as well as costumes and plot twists to invite the viewer into his realm. The bright colours used in abundance – red, blue, ochre, green – carry the viewer away into the world of the child’s imagination. The way the story evolves in Roy’s words and in Alexandria’s vision hints that either Roy is a child deep within, or Alexandria is older than she seems, being able to picture the most crucifying moments so tangibly. The camera effects, in turn, give the viewer a picture of enormity, with frequent aerial and long shots and high angles. The moment with the Red Bandit making the blood oath features the colour red on a white canvas, with red rocks around is the scene representing the most lucid combination of these effects.
A strong exposure of colour used to symbolize blood, an aerial camera shot encompassing the smallish figures of characters on the sand, and the blinding desert sun effect create a psychologically heavy scene turning the whole episode into the carnival of death. Also, the signifying beginning scene with a horse fallen into the river is filmed in monochrome. Again, the colour and lighting are meaningful here: they are used to either compliment the era of black-and-white movies or the dullness and colourlessness of the reality as opposed to the full spectrum of the imaginary world. The camera in this scene is literally falling to the ground, marking the beginning of the fall from the very first seconds of the film.
To conclude, “The Fall” is a movie to dig deep into. With the picture evolving around the characters and their relationships, it is a story of a downfall and rebirth, of solitude and humble affection. The stories are constructed like a labyrinth, with their innumerable symbols and postmodern intertextuality. The movie offers the viewer the sheer joy of discovery; at the same time, it provokes thinking and lingers long after it has been watched.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “The Fall.” Online video Clip. YouTube. 2013. Web.