IGN recently released a trailer for The Fall, the newest from director Tarsem Singh, best known for 2000’s The Cell, as well as music video work for En Vogue and R.E.M. (he directed the acclaimed video for “Losing My Religion”).
The Fall, which is set in a California hospital circa 1920, follows the relationship between a young immigrant girl and an injured Hollywood stuntman who begins telling her an epic, world-spanning tale about bandits, warriors, evil rulers, and beautiful princesses.
As the trailer shows, The Fall is quite the visually arresting film. I saw it in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was easily the most beautiful film I saw, full of gorgeous scenery (the film was shot in over 20 countries) and opulent costumes, and it sports a sense of imagination that immediately brings to mind the likes of Terry Gilliam (cue the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen comparisons).
However, as I wrote in my Twitch review:
Throughout the film, I felt like Tarsem was trying to get my attention, to get me to notice this really alluring costume, or the angle at which he shot this stunning castle wall, or how he was able to seamlessly transition from the shot of a pinned butterfly to a deserted butterfly-shaped island. Simply put, The Fall ends up drowning in its own excesses, constantly trying way too hard to wow the viewer and sweep them off into an imaginative, whimsical tale of heroes, bandits, and princesses in such an obvious manner that it ends up feeling rather ingratiating.
It probably didn’t help much that I saw Pan’s Labyrinth at the same festival. Both films share certainly similarities: they’re both full of amazing and creative visuals, both revel in the power of myth and story, and both feature a heroine for whom the lines separating fantasy and reality become increasingly thin.
However, I found Pan’s Labyrinth to be the much stronger and more compelling film. Perhaps it’s because Guillermo del Toro grasps something about myth — its darkness and otherworldliness, its redemptive properties, its subtlety — that Tarsem, for all of his visual acumen, doesn’t.
That being said, I would never describe The Fall as a waste of a viewer’s time. Beauty is still beauty, and there’s much to praise in Tarsem’s ability to create such fanciful settings. As I wrote in my TIFF 2006 recap, See it for the eye candy, which falls somewhere between Terry Gilliam, Ron Fricke’s Baraka, and a National Geographic special, and you might be pleasantly surprised.