A treat for the senses, a puzzle for the mind.
You won't need any more proof than the operatic opening sequence, dramatically underscored by Beethoven's 7th, to know that "The Fall" is a film of grand staging and visual mastery. From an early-20th-century Los Angeles hospital to fantastical scenes of otherworldly beauty, "The Fall" is a technically dazzling film that instantly gratifies the eye, but falls short of appeasing the head or the heart with its visual excesses.
Depressed Roy (Lee Pace), an actor paralyzed by a fall, can think only about getting enough morphine to silence his demons of self-pity. Young Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who suffers from a broken arm suffered in a fall, wishes only to escape the doldrums of hospital life.
When these two strike up an unlikely friendship, Roy strings Alexandria along by doling out epic tales filled with iconic heroes and mysterious villains in far-flung lands. The stories that ignite Alexandria's imagination also emblazon the screen with unbelievable landscapes. The parallel narratives start to blur as characters in and around the hospital become characters in Roy's increasingly fatalistic fable.
"The Fall," self-financed by director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell") and finally released under the arm of David Fincher and Spike Jonze, is a clever and dazzling homage to the power of the moving image, but it comes close to being an empty shell except for the completely uninhibited performance of Untaru as Alexandria. Making the other actors seem like cardboard, Untaru ultimately provides the buoyancy to keep this weighty film from sinking.