The Fall **1/2
Directed by Tarsem
"The Fall" is beautiful to look at, highly imaginative and creative, and very ambitious to boot, despite having its pretentious moments here and there that become just a little showy. I haven't seen the first film by Tarsem, "The Cell" from a few years back, but I hear that it was as highly experimental as this one. Taking place in 1920's LA, "The Fall" tells the story of young Alexandria (played by the wonderfully natural Catinca Untaru), who suffered a fall and is recovering in a hospital. While looking for things to do, and while not being under the watch of the kind and beautiful Nurse Evelyn, Alexandria meets Roy Walker, a Hollywood stunt man also recovering from an accident. He begins to weave to Alexandria a fantastic tale about the evil Lord Odious, who is being hunted by a slew of characters including Charles Darwin, an explosives expert, a hunter, an ex-slave, and finally a mysterious masked man that looks like Roy quite a bit. In exchange, Roy gets Alexandria to sneak into the closets and steal him some morphine in his attempts to kill himself, which keep failing. As Roy's life gets darker and darker, it reflects in the story as he begins to kill character after character.
Tarsem shot this film in eight-teen different countries, and takes advantage of some really beautiful shots that certainly deserve to be seen on the big screen. But it is at times where his attempt to blow the viewer away through the visuals ends up getting in the way of finding real heart into the characters. Our two leads Untaru and Lee Pace (who suddenly has been popping up in everything since "Pushing Daisies") do find some naturalness in their on-screen relationship. One touch I really liked a bit was having Alexandria say things at times to which Roy doesn't understand, causing her to repeat it, which is certainly realistic considering both the age and language barrier between the two. But Tarsem's script is a bit all over the place, trying to infuse too many things into one movie-the story within the story, the outer story, and than the throwbacks to Hollywoods and such. There were a few parallels between the the two stories that I haven't been able to catch on because I do not think Tarsem highlighted that section enough. At times the film does get a bit arty-such as the slow motion black and white opening credits with Beethoven's 7th (as beautiful as it is) playing in the background. But "The Fall" ends up being a special experiment and event that deserves to be seen, on as big a screen as possible, to wash into the beauty that Tarsem tries to infuse in every shot. I just wish he threw more effort into the other aspects of the film, as "The Fall" could have been something more masterful-and it should have been.