While this blog was not supposed to include movie reviews, I cannot help but talk about this spectacular film which I just watched- The Fall.
I came across this movie on the internet while looking for something else. This film is not available on any of the paid online platforms, and I had to watch it on some random website on my phone. I tried casting it on TV but the screen kept freezing. I can’t imagine how amazing this would have been on TV or (gasp!) on the big screen!
The story is set in Los Angeles, ‘once upon a time’…where a little girl, Alexandria (played by Catinca Untaru), has been admitted with a broken arm. She writes a message on a paper to Sister Evelyn and throws it at her from the verandah, but the paper somehow ends up with another patient in the hospital, Roy (played by Lee Pace), who is a stuntman and is admitted after a ‘fall’ went wrong leaving his legs paralyzed. It is later learnt that Roy is heartbroken because the lady he loved had left him for the actor of the movie in which he was performing the stunt. Alexandria goes to Roy telling him that the ‘message’ wasn’t meant for him, however, Roy draws her into a conversation by beginning to tell her a story- that of “Alexander the Great”, after whom Alexandria is named. And there begins the most wonderful of all depictions of storytelling there can ever be. Roy narrates to her a story with five characters- an Indian, a former slave, an explosives expert, Charles Darwin (with a pet monkey Wallace), and a masked bandit; they are later joined by a sixth character-the mystic. The common villain in all their back-stories is Governor Odius. Roy keeps on spinning the yarn of story and viewers are shown the picture Alexandria draws in her head. All the characters in the story are played by people she sees in the hospital. The plot of the story (being narrated by Roy) changes with the feedback given by Alexandria, and since the story is entirely made up at the moment, and heavily influenced by a child’s imagination, in most parts it defies logic. And while Alexandria is genuinely invested in the story and thoroughly enjoys the company of Roy, the same cannot be said about Roy. His only motive to get into this little storytelling activity with her is to cajole her to get him morphine, which he wants to use to commit suicide.
And Alexandria does get him the medicine- twice! The first time, only three tablets (which has a cute story which should be seen directly) and the next time it is only another patient’s placebo- which fails Roy’s plan to overdose on morphine. In her third attempt at getting the medicine, Alexandria falls again and suffers head trauma. On learning about this fall, Roy is ridden with guilt and meets Alexandria who requests him to tell the rest of the story. Roy kills all characters one by one, until they are finally left with the bandit and his daughter, who in Alexandria’s imagination are Roy and she herself. She cries and begs Roy to not kill the bandit when Roy says that it was his story. To this, Alexandria asserts that it was hers too. Moved by the little girl, Roy finally decides to not kill the bandit and his daughter.
The movie moves on showing all of them watching the movie in which Roy had starred as the stuntman. The camera zooms in randomly on all the hospital staff who had played the various characters in Alexandria’s mind, showing how the listener/reader of a story creates a whole world in his/her head with a special set of characters which may or may not be the same as the world and images that had been created by the writer/storyteller. This is further highlighted in the scene where, while watching the movie in which Roy starred- a scene pops up where a native American, i.e., an “Indian” is shown who rubs his eyebrows the same way the Indian in Roy’s story did- implying that Roy too was drawing characters straight out of his life. In yet another scene toward the end, we see Alexandria happy and healthy, back in her orange farm where one of the workers is and Indian (like us – from the country ‘India’) and this shows us from where she draws the character of ‘Indian’ in Roy’s story.
The movie, as a whole, shows how powerful storytelling is and how every story has not one but many owners, to each of whom the story runs differently, with their own characters in their own worlds. It also shows how storytelling can help us connect with others, help us transform and save our lives.
The theme of stories and storytelling is not the only thing that makes this movie special. It is also spellbinding in its exquisite shots. Each shot of the movie is like a still from a NatGeo magazine. It has been shot in more than 20 countries, with a major chunk being shot in India- we can see fabulous captures from Rajasthan, Agra….. and….. 🙂 there is a scene which shows….. Rajan! Yes, it has been shot in Andamans too (I confirmed)! The director is an Indian, Tarsem Singh and this movie was his lifetime ambition. He put in his own money to make this most fabulous movie, which, by the way, flopped badly. It is quite sad, coz everything about the movie is amazing. And while we mention amazing it would be a terrible miss to not mention the little Catinca who played Alexandria. Yes, Lee Pace was great, a very charming-kind-of-handsome (he looks like Justin Trudeau), but Catinca was …. I have no words. Everything about her was so real, so genuine…. it felt as if the conversation she and Roy were having was real, not an ‘act’ put up for a movie. I searched later and learnt that a lot of her scenes were unscripted…. so some gibberish she says and the “what?” Roy says in some scenes (unable to understand her) are real!! She is the loveliest aspect of the movie. You’d be a very hard hearted person if you don’t fall in love with her (this coming from me…someone who does not really like children)!
I love it!