Tarsem’s The Fall

The Fall

I saw an unexpectedly great live-action film last night–Tarsem’s The Fall (view the trailer here). The film’s production design is insanely gorgeous, with nearly every shot a lush and breathtaking tableau of color and composition. The landscapes in the movie are so exotic and magical that I automatically assumed they were all computer-generated like every other Hollywood film. Amazingly, though, it was all shot on-location.

Tarsem’s background–directing commercials like the classic Levi’s “Swimmer” and music videos like R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”–means that he knows how to create stylish and imaginative imagery, but in The Fall he backs it up with a sweet and engaging story about a 5-year-old immigrant girl and a Hollywood stuntman who befriend one another while recovering from injuries in a 1910s LA hospital.

The film premiered at festivals in 2006 but didn’t receive a theatrical release in the US until May of this year. The distribution difficulties of the film are reflected in the film’s production history: Tarsem financed the film almost entirely out of his own pocket using the millions of dollars he made as a commercial director. Its production was as unconventional as the final film. For example, Tarsem scouted locations for the fantasy sequences for seventeen years, he shot the film in over twenty countries, and a good deal of the film’s story structure was ad-libbed by the little girl protagonist.

The reason I’m mentioning this film on the Brew is that it also features a brief yet highly effective stop-motion sequence conceived by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein, the brothers who won an Oscar for their 1989 animated short Balance. I haven’t seen a new piece of work by them in a long time and was pleased to see their names pop up in the credits. Their website Lauenstein.TV indicates that they’re busy and still producing plenty of work.

Tarsem’s The Fall is currently playing in only a handful of theaters. I highly recommend checking it out on the bigscreen if you can. It’s final New York screening is tonight at the Cinema Village 3. There’s also an interview with the director at the A.V. Club in which he discusses this film’s production at length.

The Fall


  • http://www.tlavideo.com Adrian Hickman

    THE FALL is being released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on September 9th (DVD only, no Blu-ray) List price is $24.99, so you will find it discounted.

  • Tillie

    agreed. Seeing this in the theater was a real treat.

  • messy

    The story is BAD. The Characters aren’t interesting, and it doesn’t go anywhere.

  • Sean

    Wow. I just watched the trailer, and now I want to see the whole movie really bad. Please give us Brew readers updates as to when it’s playing in other cities.

  • http://www.fab-ri-cate.com mike white

    that was my favorite movie i’ve seen this year and in my all time top 5. so beautiful and literally breath-taking throughout the whole thing. lee pace (pushing daisies) was perfect and the little girl should get an oscar nod.

  • http://www.stephenneary.blogspot.com pizzaforeveryone

    looks like “el topo” on steroids. a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1607100038 Bill

    The Fall IS coming to Blu-ray on the same date as the DVD. Looked on Amazon.

  • http://captainyolk.blogspot.com Jeremy Bernstein

    I too was just as excited to see this film when I saw the amazing trailer. But once again, the movie does not live up to all the hype. It is the most boring film you will ever see. It was actually excruciating to watch as I tried to stay awake. Believe me I tried! The acting was horrendous and the little girl was, well, she was just cute. There were random story lines pumped in that made no sense ( the angry man in the hospital) and you didn’t care for any of the characters except for the cute little girl. Oh, and the whole movie was just ‘shoe leather’. Walking, and walking, and traveling, and more walking, and some more walking….and some nice scenery. This movie is best to be seen in a coffee table book full of still images or possibly re-edited. The visual imagery is stunning, yet that alone does not keep me hooked for two hours.

  • Bobby D.

    Wow…humbling…kinda makes a good steady-cam shot, or a flying CG asteroid, look pedestrian. Thanks Amid. This just made my “must see” list.

  • http://thisischris.com Chris

    The Fall is my favorite movie of 2008! I’m glad to see it getting some love here on the Brew. Note: it is not boring unless you are boring.

  • amid

    Jeremy – I think if you view this by the standards of conventional Hollywood narrative where something has to happen every second, then yes, it’s boring. But it’s not that kind of film. What you called “some nice scenery” I viewed as an integral part of the story. The landscapes, cinematography and costumes were all part and parcel of creating a carefully constructed mood piece. While the story itself is deceptively simple, there’s a lot bubbling beneath the story’s surface. It was a very satisfying viewing experience for me. To each their own.

  • http://captainyolk.blogspot.com Jeremy Bernstein

    Amid-
    I understand your point….and I enjoy movies that are unconventional. But all the “bubbling” underneath made me fall asleep. Perhaps a second viewing on dvd (with my finger on fast forward during the hospital scenes ) might change my mind.

  • http://exitplanetwhom.blogspot.com gavin mouldey

    The Adventures of Baron Munchausen comes to mind.

  • http://end-of-something.blogspot.com/2008/05/fall.html andy

    The story could have been more compelling, but it is still a gorgeous film best seen on a theatrical screen. I wish the trailer didn’t show so much though– it has almost every shot worth seeing.

  • precode

    Looks 10, Dance 3. Basically it’s THE WIZARD OF OZ meets THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. And the little girl is so annoying I wanted to send her to the cornfield.

  • Steph’

    Isn’t this the movie where the little girl was decieved into thinking that the actor playing the stuntman had actual injuries similar to his character being filmed as opposed to just acting if he did, so she could give an “honest performance”? I personally detest that kind of manipulation and lying to kids.

  • Kevin H

    He’s already released a similar movie? The Cell? Style is great, but story was lacking. I’m expecting the same here. Looks kinda like The Fountain, but with at least a modicum of plot.

  • matt

    Yes Steph, and most of the cast too, so they were lying to the adults as well. I seem to remember Tarsem Singh saying in an interview that the girl’s mother wasn’t impressed!

    But what I’d like to know Amid, is whether you saw his execrable “The Cell” because it was exactly what you whinge about with “MTV” directors. And you could have said the “bubbling below the surface” thing for that too. I’m trying not to pre-judge, but that’s exactly the vibe I get from this – once bitten I guess.

    Having said that, Fincher and Jonze are standing up for it, so…

  • http://tsutpen.blogspot.com Stephen

    The Cell was a bunch of interesting visuals in search of a script…hopefully this will be less so.

    Too bad I won’t get to see it in a theatre though.