Something like a pain-fueled, R-rated Princess Bride, The Fall straddles the intertwined worlds of storytelling and story. One half is a child’s-eye-view tour of the convalescent wing of a Los Angeles hospital, set during the infancy of the film industry. Heartbroken-to-the-brink-of-suicide stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) finds himself fabricating a tale about a band of brethren brigands to entertain a recuperating nine-year-old girl (Catinca Untaru, so adorable that I vacillated between feeling saccharine-sick and wanting to adopt her). The other half of the film involves the girl’s visualization of this improvised bedtime story, as the multinational, one-dimensional bandits sally forth in billowing slo-mo on an epic journey to topple a tyrannical governor. As Roy’s depression deepens, the story darkens accordingly. Director Tarsem, a commercial-shoot hired gun whose first and last feature until now was 2000’s The Cell, grabbed vistas for his bloviated pictorialist fantasia on cross-continental on-location shoots, pulling together a supersaturated, border-blurring National Geographic travelogue of steppes, deserts, and Ottoman extravagance (the director’s Indian origins gives the movie’s references to Orientalism an interesting twist). If the human details are often problematic, the IMAX-grade bombast, ceremonial camera, and Jodorowsky-esque eclecticism still combine for a singular spectacle.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2008