The Fall (2006) is the story of an unlikely friendship between a stuntman and a little girl in a Los Angeles hospital in 1915. Roy Walker (Lee Pace…oh, how I miss Pushing Daisies!) has suffered what appears to be a spinal injury after falling off a horse during a film shoot and is battling depression after his girlfriend has left him for another man. Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is an immigrant child whose arm is in a cast after falling while picking oranges in a grove. The note Alexandria sends flying through the window lands in Roy’s lap, prompting her to visit him. When Roy tells her that she was named for Alexander the Great, the two embark on a storytelling journey. He tells her to come back the next day and he will tell her an epic tale set in India. This adventure story, combined with the reality of their hospital stay, make up the two intertwining halves of the movie.
While Alexandria and Roy are confined to the hospital, five men are stranded on an island bound by their hatred of Governor Odious. One is Otta Benga, who was enslaved by Odious and has now escaped. Another is an Indian whose wife was kidnapped by Odious. Luigi is an explosives expert, banished by Oidous and forbidden from talking to anyone in the city. A young Charles Darwin’s search for an exotic butterfly results in said butterfly showing up dead, sent through the mail by Odious. And there is our hero, the Masked Bandit whose twin brother is set to be executed by Odious. These are the five men of Roy’s story and, if you watch closely, you can see each of these men and their place in Alexandria’s life, including Roy himself.
The movie was filmed in over 20 countries, which adds beautiful imagery and an immeasurable sense of wonder to the adventure. The saturated colors lend even more to the sense of fantasy – a lush green valley stands out against the beige of a barren desert; hooded soldiers run up segmented MC Escher-like stairs; blood soaks the shroud of one of their fallen in the hunt for revenge against Odious. And when it seems all is lost, when the crew are captured by the henchmen and are dying of thirst, a little masked bandit pops out of a bag and saves their lives. Alexandria is the hero they all needed.
Truthfully, Alexandria is the hero of this story. She and Roy have fantastic chemistry. I read that much of her lines were unscripted and her reactions to Lee Pace were left to be spontaneous. Doing this prevents the story from reaching maudlin heights and contributes a great amount of innocence to Alexandria as a character. When Roy asks her to play a game by touching his toe but not telling him which one, we believe in her desire to please Roy, even as she lies to him that it was the toe he guessed. For Alexandria this is hardly significant, but the potential for paralysis sends Roy down a dark path which ultimately ends in Alexandria getting hurt.
I recall hearing nothing about The Fall when it was released, so I’m happy that it was shown to me by a friend after he proclaimed it to be one of his favorites. I can easily see why. The use of fantasy to interpret real life reminds me of one of my own favorites, Pan’s Labyrinth. When it comes to movies, I’m easily won over by inventive storytelling, artfully composed scenes, and a feeling of authenticity in the actors’ interactions. The Fall has all of this in spades.