After making the rounds at the film festivals and enjoying a limited theatrical release, The Fall has landed on Blu-ray Disc hoping to make a bit more of a commercial splash. Like Tarsem’s other film, The Cell, The Fall will likely be remembered more for its stunning visuals than its story, even though Tarsem spent four years working on it in countless countries. The film is clearly one man’s imagination run wild, sort of The Fifth Element of Luc Besson’s eye, minus the CGI imagery and camera trickery. But the result is unlike anything you have ever seen before, or likely will ever see again.
Looking beyond The Fall’s colorful facade reveals a serviceable story about a young stuntman, Roy, who is injured during a reckless and ill advised stunt during the early years of Hollywood silent films. Paralyzed from the waist down, he’s left to ponder his existence and the loss of his girlfriend to a movie star when Alexandria, a young girl also injured in a fall, becomes his bedside confidant.
The Fall plays between Roy and Alexandria’s bleak hospital sentence and a fantasy world Roy conjures via a make-believe tale to gain Alexandria’s trust before enlisting her for a less than honorable task. While Roy’s story begins innocently enough about five exiled men seeking revenge against Governor Odious, whom has hurt each of them in a unique way, elements from Roy and Alexandria’s troubled lives begin to seep in until life imitates art in a matter of life and death.
Approaching The Fall from the story’s perspective reveals a number of basic scriptwriting no-no’s. Characters integral to the narrative’s direction are underdeveloped, vital plot elements are not fleshed out, and a payoff with Governor Odious fails to live up to its own billing. How hard could it be to cut out 10 minutes of slow camera pans past a temple or mountain for more productive scenes?
The story is realistically a guide for Tarsem’s visuals that put wonders of our world on display virgin to most eyes. Surely these gorgeous locations where M.C. Escher drawings seemingly come to life and colors make rainbows look gray in comparison aren’t real. But they are, and that is the beauty of what Tarsem has captured on film.
The Fall is clearly an amazing film to “see,” which is why it is one of the best live-action candidates around for a 1080p Blu-ray Disc treatment. The AVC MPEG-4 1.85:1 transfer runs continuously around 30mpbs, which faithfully brings Tarsem’s imagery to life in high definition. I could rave on and on about how the squeaky-clean saturated colors and deep contrast jump off the screen during any scene from Roy’s story. Where The Fall strikes balance is in the hospital, where the image maintains an “aged” appearance with grain and muted colors. These dramatic shifts in visuals make visiting Roy’s story all the more appealing to the eye. There’s no reason why The Fall shouldn’t fall into the reference video collection for any Blu-ray collector.
Sony continues its lossless audio support on The Fall with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. The mix is a resounding success at punching out Beethoven’s 7th in the opening credits, ensuring gunshots are sharp when firing on top of silence, and moving directional sounds like horses running around the room. It does falter somewhat in reproducing Alexandria’s voice, which is hard enough to understand given her broken English and sometimes improvised childish muttering. Next to Roy’s strong voice, hers sounds like a whisper and is too easily drowned out by the slightest off-screen noise.
The Fall on Blu-ray Disc includes the same supplemental features found on the day-and-date DVD, but presented in standard definition. The lone exception is a high-definition photo gallery.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tarsem — The filmmaker is candid about his work in discussing the difficulty of executing many of the shots. He is not the easiest person to understand but has much to say about creating his film worth listening taking the time to listen to.
Audio Commentary with Lee Pace, Writer/Producer Nico Soultanakis and Writer Dan Gilroy — Pace commands a considerable amount of microphone time from the two writers and is able to offer the on-set perspective. The writers, in contrast, point out directions abandoned in earlier script drafts and cut filmed scenes not appearing on this release.
Wanderlust Featurette (28:13) — Raw behind-the-scenes look at Tarsem directing his cast, setting up shots and making sure his crew has fun making the fun. He does not care if the finished film “is a piece of shit” as long as everyone involved has a good time and never feels uncomfortable.
Nostalgia Featurette (30:01) — The material presented in Nostalgia is not dissimilar to Wanderlust. Lots of raw handheld footage shot in-between and during takes, during setup, during breaks and every other conceivable moment on a set. A couple fast beat montages are tossed in to mix up the pace.
Deleted Scenes (1:39) – A pair of short deleted scenes offer extended scenery and an obvious early red flag stapled onto a specific character’s brow. They are almost painful to watch in a duller and less detailed 480p after soaking in the beautiful 1080p feature.
Enhanced Photo Gallery (Blu-ray Exclusive, HD) — Finally, an extra feature presented in high definition. The photos in this gallery are a compilation of shots from the film and staged shots on the set. Only roughly two-thirds of the frame is filled, a shame considering the visuals’ strength.
Tarsem’s The Fall is a self-indulgent mission to put the most beautifully natural imagery on film. As a film alone it will be torn to shreds, which is precisely how my wife attacked its inadequacies. Nothing remotely unique or captivating about Tarsem’s visual style registered in her brain.
As a work of art, The Fall will appeal to those who can appreciate its beauty without getting caught up in the framework underneath. This is one Blu-ray Disc 1080p experience you owe it to yourself to at least rent and give a fighting chance. Who knows? Maybe The Fall will become the “cool looking movie with the guy from Pushing Daisies” in your next casual film recommendation conversation.
- Score: 8.7
- Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, this is a perfect candidate for 1080p video, although the story clearly took a back seat to the A/V elements.