Tarsem – The Fall (2006)

What do I say, and where do I even begin…

I got to view this film a few months back or so, and was completely floored. I work with the erdkinder in NammaShaale, some of them have actually made ‘shorts(films of circa 3 min duration)  and so I thought, may be they would actually appreciate ‘The Fall,’ at least from the perspective of technical excellence, considering the fact that, otherwise they routinely get dished out (no, not in the school) only soapy, syruppy and maudlin films of the likes of ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Wrong day Besan Tea.’  I am glad to say that they were also dazzled by this labour of love of Tarsem (Singh Dhabdwar) and surprisingly (to me, that is) they understood a few nuances in the film too! This reinforces my long held conviction that, given half a chance and a bouquet of choices, children intuitively, instinctively and irresistably are drawn towards excellence, be it music or film or book or ideas or life, whatever  – hence this post.

The story line is simple: A little girl Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) and a Hollywood stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) are recovering together from their respective falls, in a hospital. Roy has been recently jilted by his lady love and he feels that life is hopelessly dreary, as he is bedridden with no immediate scope for recovery and therefore it is going to be a longtime, if at all, before he can do any stunt again . The little girl (read: magic) is befriended by Roy, as she is required by him to get some Morphine pills so that he can commit suicide, thusly ending his agony. He starts telling her a story about his life couched as a few desparadoes grouping together, out to take a revenge on one Odious (‘Spanish Governor ‘) who has wronged them all in one way or the other…

What follows is a stunningly magical storyline narrated by Roy, exquisitely and vividly visualized by Alexandria.  Full of breathless landscapes – sand dunes, bald mountains, butterfly island, underwater shots of a swimming elephant, blue-blue-blue city (Jodhpur), reservoir with  geometical explorations (much like MC Escher’s recursive themes), labyrinth (actually it looked like one of the observatories of yesteryears in India – Jantar Mantar) etc etc…

When the storyline becomes bleak, Alexandria intervenes, gets into the story and starts steering the story towards a relatively cheerful direction. And the magic lantern shines on… Lovely!

I read that the whole film has very little or no animation or computer generated images. Tarsem captures the indefagitable spirit and endless hope of the child and the stunning visuals – and seemlessly weaves them together – it is pure magic. It is hard to believe that many of the visuals framed by him are popular Indian (and firangee) tourist destinations  – as Tarsem has successfully distilled the magic out of locations, but not the distracting environments. Amazing.

Editing and sound mixing were of the finest kind too – especially the technique of fading voices and lingering dialogues  when the story within the story takes over from the main story. It very nicely introduces us to the dreamy world of the child (even as Roy tells the story) while, pointers suddenly become values and values, pointers – if I may be pardoned about using a little bit of a parallel in computing science.

I have never known any other film that has used the splendid allegretto of the 7th Symphony (of Beethoven) – that is in ABSOLUTE sync with the mood of the film. And as suspected by me, the music/rendering is by the inimitable and grand Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra; to be honest, in more ways than one, the collapse of the ‘Warsaw Pact’ or the iron curtain has been a great  thing to happen. How else could one have been fortunate enough to listen to such perfectly rendered musical pieces?

There is quite a bit of humour in the film too… Darwin’s pet monkey is named Wallace (probably alluding to the Alfred R Wallace, the much forgotten co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection) and the Indian living in a wigwam (visualized by Alexandria as a palace in India) and having a squaw  (visualized as an Indian girl) – the cute interplay of the culture of American Indians and Indian Indians…

I wish he makes a film out of The Last Samurai of Helen Dewitt! Honest. This incredible capability of transforming the real into surreal, is Tarsem’s magic and I guess The Last Samurai will be in very good hands…

I strongly recommend that all you folks view and savour ‘The Fall.’  Never mind the Blimeyhog Billionaire and Shamedog Sillyonaire. (actually I haven’t seen  the recent winner of n Oscar awards, but then…)

Like all great films, this film too is not likely to hit the Indian theatres or multiplexus… But if you do want to view it at your homes, you know who to ask.

BTW, do we know that we have amidst NammaShaale parents, the director of ‘Kutti Jappanil Kuzhandaigal’  (roughly translating to: Children in ‘little Japan’) – a poignant & activist documentary on child labour in Sivakasi, that probably was made more than two decades back?

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