EbertFest: “The Fall”

(“The Fall” is available for immediate streaming via Amazon On Demand.)

I think I ruined the clutch on my Personal Movie Criticism transmission with this room. I went from devoted love, to violent hatred, to seething, grudging acceptance, all within the space of the final fifteen minutes.

First off, movies this gorgeous are the reason why you want to see flicks in a real theater, on a big screen, and in 70mm if possible. This is a movie that shows off the skills of the art director and the costume designer and the actors and screenwriter are just doing their best not to screw things up.

Cross “Baron Munchausen” with “The Princess Bride” and you’ve got the general idea behind “The Fall.” A story is being told with flair and panache, to an audience consisting of a single child. As the story progresses, you gradually learn the story of the storyteller himself…who has very much his own secrets and agenda.

I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending of this flick for you. When you read the preceding paragraph, I’m certain that you immediately understood the potential for A Series Left Turn Into The Darkness. An adult’s world isn’t a child’s world. A child sees bandits rescuing a princess from an evil governor. The adult lives in a world where the princess might have gone off with the bastard willingly, and that the rescuers are betrayed and die without ceremony.


I don’t have the right to demand that a movie goes the way that I think it will. In fact, as a moviegoer, “movies that get me upset for some reason or another” is one of the many genres that I seek out.

But there’s a problem with “The Fall,” and it’s a simple and common one. There’s a basic contract that the filmmaker makes with the audience:

1) The audience allows the filmmaker to choose the rules for his or her movie.

2) The filmmaker has to follow those rules.

Nothing releases either party from their obligations. “The Fall” spent its first hour promising one thing. And then they spent ten minutes in the world of “Clockwork Orange,” which made me pretty steamed.

Dear reader, I did indeed mutter “Oh, **** you,” at the screen. This can be a sign that a film is truly working, if I’m aiming it at a character. When I’m lobbing it at the filmmakers, though…no, that’s no damned good.

What a huge mistake those ten minutes were. Mind you, I don’t mind that it was a tough ten minutes to sit through. I’m angry on behalf of the film. Those ten minutes were clumsy, they were inelegant; the work that the scenes achieve could have been accomplished far more simply and directly and would have guaranteed that this movie would have gotten an MPAA rating that would have allowed children under the age of 17 to see “The Fall.”

A potentially thrilling and satsifying film, damned-near ruined by a director’s lack of self-restraint. No, more than that: a lack of trust in his audience.

I don’t think “The Fall” sucked, on balance. It’s a beautiful house with a big stink in it. You can sort of work your way past that but on the whole, you wonder what kind of idiot architect puts an outhouse in the middle of a living room.

2 thoughts on “EbertFest: “The Fall”

  1. Garry

    Forgive me if you know this but I was upset as well as the scenes turned gory and violent, but I realized this was the injured man losing hope and his story being seen through the eyes of the little girl. And as he sensed her revulsion (everyone is dying) the ending moderates and they come to a peace one with another, don’t they?

    I need to see this again be cause the movie was half over before I realized I was seeing what the little girl imagined.

    I may be completely misunderstanding your review but the film really affected me and my wife and I have been talking about it for weeks since seeing it. I am still remembering scenes and realizing what was happening between the guy and the little girl.

    He fell, she fell, we all fall. Great movie

  2. Maggie

    Wow! I totally took away a different sort of ‘message’ on that bit. Right now I don’t know if I can properly express that, but I’ll try to at some point. I just assumed everyone saw it the same way, so I haven’t dissected it much. I did think it was very human (as in, there’s the ‘right’ way, the ‘wrong’ way and the ‘human – all kinds of effed up’ way) and very ‘Roy’. I may have to watch it again just to see how it feels the second time.

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