Thursday, June 11, 2009

Film - Visual Spectacle in Tarsem Singh's The Fall

From our previous feature on the environmental documentary Yann Arthus-Bertrand’sHome”, we mentioned a movie that visually impressed us – Tarsem Singh’sThe Fall” which we brought at a specialty movie shop during one of our travels last year.

The story takes place in
1920 at a hospital in Los Angeles. A child with a fractured arm befriends a stuntman who got paralyzed after a bad fall while shooting a war film. He is in constant pain. To be able to inveigle the child to scout for morphine from the pharmacy, Roy (the stuntman, played by Lee Pace) weaves a fairy tale about a corrupt emperor – and the 6 men (an explosions expert; a Native American Indian; a runaway slave; an East Indian swordsman; a masked bandit; and Charles Darwin) who vow for vengeance. This milieu allows an out-of-this-world adventure to begin through visually succulent regions from the far reaches of the world.

In Tarsem’s story, his cinematic canvas becomes a polychrome of magical vistas and locales – shot in the most exotic places in the world – the Agra Fort in Uttar Pradesh, the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean; Bali, Indonesia; the Butterfly Reef in Fiji; Cambodia; Charles Bridge in Old Town Prague; Chennai in Tamil Nadu; Hagi Sophia in Istanbul; China; Egypt; Nepal in the Himalayas; Ladakh in Kashmir; Maldives; Jaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan; Paris; Romania; Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia; Sossusvlei in Namibia; Sumatra in Indonesia; Villa Adriana in Rome and Valkenberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

Each frame becomes an eye-popping art canvas.
I was in constant awe.

On point of narrative, the images tend to overwhelm that the film soon alienates the viewers from the story within the movie. As I mentioned from last post, Tarsem’s narrative exposition was a bit too recondite and superfluous – too “out-there” – that it robs off its audience’s empathy. The images are nonetheless impressive.

Visual spectacle is Tarsem’s domain. He seems to focus more on the imagery than the story. This was evident in an earlier work with
Jennifer Lopez, “The Cell”. However, if a story teller wants a more engaging story that’s remembered long after the credit roll, a movie should equally focus on an accessible story line.

I highly recommend this movie for its spectacularly magical visuals – a feat that’s unfortunately rarely observed in contemporary cinema. Can’t wait to watch Tarsem Singh’s next film.

This was obviously shot in one of those blue houses in Jodhpur. Oh yeah! Been here. Haha

Here are some interesting trivias about the movie from imdb:

· This movie is inspired by the Bulgarian movie
Yo ho ho (1981).

· The film was shot on 26 locations over
18 countries. Bertrand’s Home was shot in 60 countries.

· The director claims that there are
no special effects in the film despite its surreal looks. Everything was shot on real locations. Cinematography is by Colin Watkinson.

· A miscommunication between the casting agent and
Catinca Untaru (who played the little girl Alexandria) led her to believe that Lee Pace (Roy) was a real-life paraplegic. Director Tarsem Singh found that this brought an added level of believability to their dialogue, so he decided to keep almost the entire cast and crew under the same impression. Singh had to speak to the actor playing Alexandria's father and explain that his role was smaller than it appeared, since the script implied that he played the role of the bandit (actually played by Pace) in the fantasy scenes. Apparently it was hard to keep up the lie - a makeup artist walked into a room to find Pace standing and almost passed out from shock.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

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