Roy: All right, close your eyes. What do you see?
Roy: Rub them. Can you see the stars?
A 2006 fantasy
film by Tarsem Singh, based on the 1981 Bulgarian pirate story "Yo Ho Ho". The film took four years to shoot, in 26 locations in over 18 countries, and was funded by Spike Jonze
and David Fincher
. The trailer spoils
most of its plot twists.The Fall
tells the story of Roy, a crippled stuntman in early 20th century Hollywood, and Alexandria, an inquisitive 5-year-old girl he befriends during his hospital stay. Roy has a broken heart and a death wish: during his last (and so far only) film, he tried a stunt his fellow stuntmen called downright suicidal, and was left crippled by his fall.
Confined to his hospital bed, Roy has a plan: he begins weaving for Alexandria the most epic adventure story ever told. It stars seven heroes — the Black Bandit, an Italian, an Indian, a Mystic, ex-slave Otta Benga, Charles Darwin, and Wallace the monkey — on a quest of revenge against the evil Governor Odious, each for their own reasons. With the story, Roy tries to get Alexandria excited about bandits, and about stealing... and for each installment of the story he tells her, he wants her to steal a little something for him in return.
But Roy has little idea how to talk to young children, and Alexandria is stubborn, barely speaks English, and still lives by the laws of her own child logic. The story Roy tells is seen entirely through Alexandria's eyes: every character (and prop) in Roy's story is imagined by Alexandria as someone (or something) she's seen in daily life. And it quickly becomes clear that her life so far has been extremely traumatizing. Her fantasy world is cute at first, but turns sinister as Roy sinks deeper and deeper into depression. Each time Alexandria makes an innocent mistake, Roy punishes her for it by punishing his characters within the tale. Finally, Alexandria decides that the story isn't safe with Roy, and she takes over the narration herself.
The end result is a combination of epic fantasy and Scenery Porn
, taking its cues from The Wizard of Oz
and The Princess Bride
. It's not for kids
won a slew of "Best Picture" awards.
It is not based on, and should not be confused with, the Albert Camus novel of the same name. Nor does it have anything to do with the Post-Punk
band led by Mark E. Smith also called The Fall
. Or with the British film Pride
, which came out one year earlier
This film contains examples of:
- Acting for Two: Everyone in the story, sometimes very well disguised.
- Anachronism Stew: On purpose, even including the Eiffel Tower. Seeing Odious' car in the fantasy setting of the story is particularly jarring, signifying the story's finale. (The car is at home in the 1920's, though: in the DVD Commentary director Tarsem states that, despite what most people thought, that car was a real model from the era.
- And You Were There: Every character (and prop) in Roy's story is imagined by Alexandria as someone (or something) she sees in daily life. Particularly noticeable once Roy includes an "Indian" (Native American) in his story - and Alexandria consistently imagines the character being played by her friend from India.
- Annoying Arrows: The ones that kill Ota Benga barely pierce him.
- Author Appeal: Much of the visuals and mythology are based on Indian culture.
- Best Served Cold: Most of the plot revolves around this.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Lee Pace has a very nice pair.
- Big "NO!": Used as a joke at the start, played very, very straight at the end.
- Bilingual Bonus: Catinca Untaru has dialog in her native Romanian.
- Bittersweet Ending: Both in the reality and in the fantasy. Alexandria will never see Roy again, and Roy is almost certainly permanently crippled, but she thinks he's the stuntman in every film she sees.
- Catch Phrase: "Googly Googly".
- Children Are Innocent: A lot of scenes deal with Alexandria overhearing conversations and not understanding the gravity of them, mostly due to the fact she's only five years old. At one point she steals communion wafers from a priest and starts eating them, even offering them to Roy, but it's made very clear she has no idea what their intended purpose is or even what they are. This is deconstructed VERY hard where she gets pills for Roy, not understanding that he will use them to commit suicide
- Cool Mask: Worn by the Red Bandit.
- Costume Porn: Oh very YES!
- Creator Breakdown: In-Universe. Roy, at the end of the story, killing nearly all of the characters off.
- Desert Bandits: The main characters turn into heroic versions of this when they attack the Big Bad's caravan in the desert.
- Doing It for the Art: Tarsem funded this mostly with his own money to ensure complete creative control, shot it over multiple continents and locations and used solely practical effects with absolutely no CGI whatsoever.
- Kinda...there was some CGI work done to remove railings and bystanders in some shots, and the butterfly Wallace chases, and the arrows hitting Ota have a CGI look to them. Still, the overwhelming majority of the film was done practically, which is still an amazing achievement.
- The on-location shooting alone needs to be emphasized. There's a short montage that features the Great Wall of China for maybe two frames, and it was shot on-location.
- Driven to Suicide: The Indian's wife was thrown into the Labyrinth of Despair when she refused Odious's advances. The only way to escape was to throw herself off the tower. Roy planned to overdose on morphine after becoming paralyzed and losing his girlfriend to the actor he does stunts for.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: The Italian blowing himself up to destroy all of the guards.
- Enforced Method Acting: Lee Pace spent the first 12 weeks of filming pretending to be a real paraplegic in order to make the story as real as possible for 6-year-old actress Catinca Untaru. He consistently went by the name of "Roy" and only a tiny handful of people on the set knew who he really was or that he could walk, everyone else being told he'd lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle accident.
- This wasn't as difficult to achieve as it might sound: it was only Pace's second role—and in his first, he played a transgender character—so it was unlikely anyone would recognize him.
- The first time the characters meet is also the first time the actors met, and the hospital scenes were shot in sequence so that the real relationship would develop and Cantinca would advance just as the fictional relationship and Alexandria did. More punishingly for the other actors, Cantinca was basically allowed to write her own dialogue and "Roy" had to respond in character to get the reactions needed for the scene. Everything involving her is some serious Enforced Method Acting for everyone else.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Most of the characters.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: "Shoot, you animals. They'll pay you well for Darwin's hide."
- Five-Man Band: Trope played to the letter:
- Five-Token Band: Justified.
- The Foreign Subtitle: Released in Spain as The Fall: El Sueno de Alexandria ("The Fall: Alexandria's Dream").
- Foreshadowing: Darwin mentions that the birds are safe inside the Mystic's belly.
- For the Evulz: The only motivation of Governor Odious in the fantasy.
- Framing Device: Exploited to great effect.
- The Indian is clearly Native American by Roy's description but the visual shows him as an undefined Indian royal. The confusion is deliberate. Roy is thinking of an actor he knew while Alexandria is thinking of her friend the orange-picker.
- Fractured Fairy Tale
- Gorn: Used sparingly, but when it's used, it's reeeeal pretty.
- He Also Did: At the time of The Fall's release, director Tarsem Singh was well known for directing the award winning 1991 video for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion".
- Heroic Sacrifice: Just about everyone.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Odious's death.
- Subverted with Roy's plan to make Alexandria get him morphine, which made him became close to her, which in turn made him get past his broken heart and forget his suicide wish.
- Historical In-Joke: Charles Darwin's pet monkey and muse Wallace is a Shout-Out to Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace famously came up with the theory of evolution independently of Darwin but published later.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Lee Pace is 6'5", so this happened. A lot. Particularly noticeable whenever the Black Bandit and Alexandria are together in the story.
- Humanoid Abomination: In-story, Odious' guards are based on Alexandria's fearful image of an early X-ray operator clad in leather and lead, and instead of speaking they make a variety of animal howls and snarls.
- Innocent Inaccurate: Alexandria's family pretty clearly had to immigrate to the United States because of a pogrom of some sort - Eastern Europe generally not being the friendliest place in the early 20th century - but when Roy tries to find out more, all she says is that "angry people" were responsible.
- Intergenerational Friendship: The film is centered on the relationship between Alexandria (5) and Roy (20s).
- Justified Title: Both Alexandria and Roy are in the hospital because of injuries sustained in falls—and each undergoes a loss of innocence.
- Kick the Dog: Roy, upon seeing the finished film learns that the his life-threatening fall had been replaced by another stunt.
- Kill 'em All: At the lowest point of his depression, Roy kills off every single character in the most heartbreaking ways possible, while Alexandria begs him to stop. All we see from him are bitter tears and a stoic expression, but Alexandria imagines his alter ego, the Black Bandit, being very visibly shaken by the deaths. The epilogue is charming, though, which softens the blow.
- Large Ham: The Black Bandit. Justified, though, as it is the imagination of a 5-year-old; Roy is played much more naturally.
- Love Hurts: Used in the fantasy and in reality. In the story, The Black Bandit finds out that Sister Evelyn didn't actually love him. In reality, Roy is bitter over the fact that his girlfriend left him for someone else.
- Match Cut: The butterfly fading into the reef and island; the priest's face and collar fading into a desert landscape. The latter one, in particular, is incredibly well-done.
- Meaningful Name: Governor Odious.
- Mood Whiplash: Oh, God.
- Mooks: Clone after clone after clone of Alexandria's real-life nightmare, the X-ray technician wearing a leather apron, swarming through an M.C. Escher-esque maze (which was not CGI, but filmed at a real place).
- Mysterious Waif: Lady Evelyn.
- Orange/Blue Contrast: The vast majority of scenes. Even the shots that aren't orange/blue are some other equally complementary pairing like red/green.
- Pocket Protector: The locket.
- Precocious Crush: Alexandria's behaviour towards Roy has hints of this, particularly when she covers his face with kisses while he's sleeping and also when she's shown drawing a heart on the drawing she makes for him.
- Promotion to Parent: Roy gives the Red Bandit a couple of the traits that her father would have, such as a gap in his teeth and Alexandria originally pictures him looking like her father. Alexandria eventually appears in the story as the Red Bandit's daughter and during the surreal sequence after she falls, Roy appears as her father.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, II. Allegretto". And it is awesome.
- Punny Name: Roy Walker is likely paralysed from the waist down.
- Rage Against the Author: Roy's story isn't always a happy one, and Alexandria is very young. It gets especially heart-wrenching when Roy's increasing depression and its effect on the story reminds her about her house being burnt down and the death of her father.
- Retcon: In-story example: the Masked Bandit was a Spaniard at first due to Alexandria telling Roy about her father; in fact she imagined him to look like her father. Eventually she asked why he kept speaking in an accent and requested he speak normally. He explained that the Masked Bandit was no longer a Spaniard, but a Frenchman; thus Alexandria imagined him to look like Roy.
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: As part of Roy's Creator Breakdown
- Rule of Cool: Justified in the story-within-a-story by being imagined by a child; very much averted outside of it.
- Scenery Porn: The Movie. It's quite difficult to state just how many inconsequential shots of vast landscapes and beautiful buildings are crammed into this film.
- Scheherezade Gambit: Attempted both by Roy and by Alexandria.
- Shout-Out: The Art Shift after Alexandria falls in the pharmacy, with wooden doctor-puppets taking apart and then reassembling and injured Alexandria doll, closely resembles a contextually similar scene in Frida
- Skyward Scream: Done by many of the characters in the story-within-the-story.
- Sleeper Hit
- Storming the Castle
- Stuff Blowing Up: Well, one of the characters in the story-within-the-story is an explosives and ballistics expert.
- Tagalong Kid: Alexandria, in-story.
- Taking You with Me: The Indian and Luigi. Ka-boom indeed.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trail spoils a majority of the plot twists including the fact Roy is initially manipulating Alexandria and eventually proceeds to kill off most of the characters.
- Throw It In: Alexandria's unintentional misreading of Roy's note as "Morphin 3" as opposed to "Morphine") was an actual mistake by the actress in rehearsal that was worked into the film as a plot twist.
- You Killed My Father: And brother (the brother was attempting to avenge their father's death). And wife, and butterfly, and... yeah, this is most of the motivation for the main characters, in fact.
- The Voiceless: The Indian only speaks one or two words during the whole movie. He speaks when he cuts the rope (killing himself and a handful of the mooks), saying "How!" (the joke being that he's a movie stereotype Native American Indian in Roy's narration and a from-India-Indian in Alexandria's imagination). Ota Benga is almost this.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Ota Benga in all of the scenes he's in.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The Princess's nephew, left behind at the carriage. Justified in that this story is being made up on the fly by the main characters who likely just forgot about him.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Just take in any of the scenery.
- X Meets Y: The Princess Bride meets Axe Cop.
Googly... googly... googly... begone!