A+ Sound A Extras C+
starring Lee Pace, Justine Waddell, Catinca Untaru
screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Nico Soultanakis & Tarsem
directed by Tarsem
by Walter Chaw Beware the film that positions itself as being told from the perspective of a child, because unless you're a child or that specific child's parent, you're eventually going to wish that someone would slap the kid in question. Tarsem's labour of love The Fall, his unlikely follow-up to his serial killer movie as shot by Salvador Dali-cum-Caspar David Friedrich The Cell, is such a film, told from a child's perspective--and rather than as an artistic decision, it plays as a plea for leniency. It's a fairytale about a little girl's emergence into maturity... No, it's a fairytale about the delicacy of life... No, it's not anything much of anything. By touching on a suicidal movie star's convalescence after an impressively-shot accident on a film set (involving a horse, Tarsem scholars take note), the picture seems to want to access some discussion concerning artificiality and its intrusion into reality--something that would make sense if The Fall positioned itself as a dyad with The Cell (which was, after all, only about film as a dream medium that acts as the brain does), but it doesn't really do that, either. All it does, in fact, is provide Tarsem an excuse to indulge his prurience and affection for elaborate set-pieces awash in saturated colours and tableaux that often border on the grotesque. Freed of the necessity to be coherent, freed of much understanding of Bruno Bettelheim or Jung or Freud, it's a fairytale without purpose and pretentious to boot, reminding more than a little of the also-pretty, also-empty Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean collaboration Mirrormask. It's too bad, really, as there are images in here genuinely affecting for their visual splendour. I wonder if it's unforgivable heresy to say The Cell is badly underestimated and due for revisionism while The Fall, despite its relative obscurity (no J-Lo anywhere in sight), is badly overestimated.