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Film / The Fall (2006)
aka: The Fall

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Roy: All right, close your eyes. What do you see?
Alexandria: Nothing.
Roy: Rub them. Can you see the stars?
Alexandria: ...Yes.

A 2006 fantasy film by Tarsem Singh, based on the 1981 Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho by Valeri Petrov. 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 (Lee Pace), 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.

The Fall 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 2013 television series, the 2014 video game, the Post-Punk band led by Mark E. Smith also called The Fall, or the survival-thriller Fall.

This film contains examples of:

  • 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 1920s, 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 him as being from India. More specifically:
    • The Black Bandit is initially revealed to be Alexandria's father, as seen in a photograph. When she notes that the Black Bandit isn't her father (as he died), he is switched out to Roy.
    • Both the Indian and the Mystic are workers Alexandria knows from the orange groves, and are seen at the end and briefly in photographs.
    • Otta Benga is the delivery man for the ice company, and Luigi is the one-legged stuntman who visits Roy, and Odious is Sinclair, the actor who stole Roy's girlfriend.
    • Charles Darwin is one of the orderlies, one of the doctors is Alexander the Great, and Nurse Evelyn is Sister Evelyn.
  • Annoying Arrows: The ones that kill Otta Benga barely pierce him.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Each of the heroes has a personal vendetta against Governor Odious ranging from the death of a brother, death of a wife and the death of a butterfly.
  • Artistic License – History: Done in-universe with gusto with Roy's story, although with some nuances outside as well. In particular, he throws in that Governor Odious is Spanish when it's Otta Benga's turn to have a grudge against his former slavemaster, despite the historical Ota Benga was bought by an American and never had anything to do with Spain. The implication that Spaniards are a codifier for working black slaves to death is also ironic; while the Spanish Empire did participate in the Atlantic slave trade like most other nations that could afford it, its slavery policies were actually much softer than average, to the point that Spanish domains were a favorite haven for fugitive slaves from English or French colonies because they could easily become free citizens there.
  • 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.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Darwin's personal vendetta against Odious was for the death of a butterfly. Wallace himself chases after a butterfly — one of the same species that Darwin is looking for — and gets shot for it.
  • Catchphrase: "Googly Googly". This was used by an elderly patient who uses it when things frighten him.
  • 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. Later on Roy is able to dupe her into fetching him morpine pills so he can commit suicide because she could never figure out his true intentions.
  • Cool Mask: Worn by the Black Bandit. When Alexandria inserts herself into the story as his daughter she dons a smaller version of the mask.
  • Costume Porn: The costumes by Eiko Ishioka are every bit as rich as the much-vaunted scenery. The bandits (save Otta Benga and the Mystic who wear loincloths) all have elaborately decorated outfits in bold colors.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe. The story's tone becomes darker and darker as Roy's emotional state worsens, and near the end he kills off every character just so Alexandria will leave him alone.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film's opening titles sequence is shot in black and white. It's actually footage of the film Roy was in.
  • Desert Bandits: The main characters turn into heroic versions of this when they attack the Big Bad's caravan in the desert.
  • 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: Most of the characters.
    • The Italian blowing himself up to destroy all of the guards.
    • Otta Benga shields Alexandria with his own body, taking so many arrows in the back that they support his body weight.
    • The Indian cutting the rope he's climbing to kill the last few guards climbing the same rope.
    • Charles Darwin's "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner, see below.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Most of the characters.
  • Exact Words:
    • Roy writes to Alexandria to get him Morphine pills, but the 'E' looks like a 3. So not only does she read it as Morphin-3, but also assumed that he only wanted 3 pills and dumped everything else down into the toilet.
    • Moreover, Roy says to Alexandria that these pills will help him go to sleep. A permanent type of sleep that is.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: "Shoot, you animals. They'll pay you well for Darwin's hide."
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Just about everyone does this in the final act as it coincides with Roy's breakdown.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Exaggerated to the point of parody with Odious's death.
    • Subverted with Roy's plan to make Alexandria get him morphine, which made him become 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.
  • Human Notepad: Partway through the story the Mystic gains a full-body tattoo of a map to Odious' mansion.
  • Hypochondria: Walt, one of the other patients in Roy's room, is this. The doctor humours his complaints about his "symptoms" but is secretly prescribing him sugar pills and passing them off as morphine.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Almost everyone, but especially Charles Darwin's insanely majestic fur cape.
  • 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).
  • It's Personal: Parodied and taken to increasingly goofy extremes when the five heroes' motivation for revenge against Odious goes from the death of a brother to the death of of a butterfly.
  • Justified Title: Both Alexandria and Roy are in the hospital because of injuries sustained in falls—and each undergoes a loss of innocence. And the event that starts to pull Roy out of his depression is when Alexandria, stealing drugs for him, falls again.
  • Kick the Dog: Roy, upon seeing the finished film learns that the his life-threatening fall had been replaced by another stunt.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Occasional, such as when Alexandria questions the plot. Even the characters notice on occasion:
    Luigi: (reading) "My dearest daughter. Never marry for money, fame, power or security; always follow your heart. Your ever-loving father."
    Black Bandit: It says all that on that little locket?
    Luigi: (shrugs) Sí.
  • 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 and is currently the page image for the trope.
  • Meaningful Name: Governor Odious.
  • Mood Whiplash: A lot of the more depressing scenes have elements of this. While the Black Bandit is being beaten to death and starts drowning, Odious points out in exasperation that the pool is only "a few feet deep". In the same scene, Roy keeps trying to justify killing off the Black Bandit by listing his misdeeds: he's a coward, a liar, and he had his fingers crossed when he took his oath.
  • 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.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Governor Odious.
  • Obviously Evil: Again, "Governor Odious." It's lampshaded by the characters.
    Alexandria: This Odious - he bad man?
    Roy: Oh yeah.
  • 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.
  • Overly Long Gag: The montage for why everyone hates Odious, complete with a Skyward Scream every single time.
  • Pocket Protector: The locket.
  • Potty Dance: The Princess starts doing this while speaking to the Black Bandit reflecting the fact that in the real world Alexandria needs to pee. The Bandit/Roy tells her to go to the bathroom because her fidgeting is distracting him.
  • Pimped-Out Cape: Several of the characters. Charles Darwin wears a glorious red-and-white peacock-feather-patterned cape.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Roy asks Alexandria to get Morphine pills, which she reads as Morphin-3. Because he didn't clarify that he wanted a full bottle, she literally assumed that he wants three pills and flushed everything down the toilet.
  • Practical Effects: The vast majority of effects is all practical. CGI was used for simple visual cleanup and for a scene of a moving map on a character's skin, but all the Scenery Porn and impossibly fantastic architecture were shot on location.
  • 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.
  • Pretty Butterflies: Americana exotica is merely the apotheosis among appearances of Lepidoptera in the film.
  • Promotion to Parent: Roy gives the Black 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 Bandit's daughter.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The second movement Allegretto from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92. 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 starts out as a Spaniard who resembles Alexandria's father (and is played by the same actor) due to Roy basing him on her father. She then reveals that her father is dead and asks Roy to make the character speak like he does, at which point Lee Pace starts playing him. Additionally, after Odious kills the Bandit's brother the Bandit swears to destroy "every Spanish thing" in revenge. Cue Alexandria pointing out that the Bandit himself is Spanish and Roy hurriedly insisting that he was actually French.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: As part of Roy's Creator Breakdown.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The entire Five-Man Band is on one against Odious.
  • Rule of Cool: Justified in the story-within-a-story by being imagined by a child; very much averted outside of it.
  • Running Gag: Every time Roy introduces a character, he adds that "X would be the one to kill Governor Odious" with said character giving a Skyward Scream as emphasis.
  • 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.
    Alexandria: You always stop at the same part, when it's very beautiful and interesting!
  • Shout-Out:
    • Beneath the colorful coat, Charles Darwin's outfit (white shirt, suspenders, black boots and bowler hat) resembles that of a Droog from A Clockwork Orange.
    • The Art Shift after Alexandria falls in the pharmacy, with wooden doctor-puppets taking apart and then reassembling an injured Alexandria doll, closely resembles a contextually similar scene in Frida.
    • The film's poster (seen above) alludes to the work of Salvador Dalí, especially his portrait of Mae West.
    • Clips from Never Weaken, Cops (1922), Three Ages, Steamboat Bill, Jr. and other silent movies are shown in the final montage.
  • Skyward Scream: Done by many of the characters in the story-within-the-story.
  • Storming the Castle: The bandits' story reaches its climax with the team storming Odious' palace. The Masked Bandit and his daughter are the only ones who survive..
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Well, one of the characters in the story-within-the-story is an explosives and ballistics expert.
  • Sword Cane: The villain has one.
  • Tagalong Kid: Alexandria inserts herself into the story as one of these, filling the role of the Masked Bandit's daughter.
  • Taking You with Me: The Indian and Luigi. Ka-boom indeed.
  • The Team:
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer 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.
  • Tuck and Cover: Otta Benga does this for the little girl.
  • 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). Otta Benga is almost this.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Otta Benga and the Mystic. The latter in particular as his costume is little more than a Loincloth and, eventually, full-body tattoos.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Googly... googly... googly... begone!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Fall


Death to Governor Odious!

Each man rages to the heavens while vowing (the Bandit gets a particularly elaborate one) to be responsible for Governor Odious' death. It gets repetitive.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / SkywardScream

Media sources: