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.