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Eye Candy: Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall”

Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru in Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall” (2006)

Aside from the fact that this 2006 masterpiece from director Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror, The Cell) is a visual triumph, it also stars Julliard grad, Lee Pace (TV’s Pushing Daisies,  Spielberg’s Lincoln) in one of his first major film roles. Not only is this film visually stunning, the story and the methods used to direct the actors (especially the young girl) are especially interesting. Tarsem has not been receiving the recognition for his work that he should. According to IMDB, this movie took four years to shoot in 28 countries, using locations themselves instead of special effects. In compliance with the trivia, the DVD features several behind-the-scenes segments that validate these claims. The featurettes are equally as interesting as the film itself. As an audience member, an actor and an avid movie buff, I am surprised that this film, no pun intended, fell under the radar.

Take a look at the fantastic trailer:

Although it won several awards at film festivals for cinematography and even as a film as a whole, it hasn’t gotten nearly the recognition it should be getting even currently. The wins for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi have rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not saying that the film is not valid within the industry, or that the efforts of the effects engineers are unwarranted. I’m simply saying that if you put it up against a film like The Fall which was filmed in the early part of the past decade, you can’t hold a candle to it.

The Fall, through utilizing the beauty of its natural environment, the simplicity of storytelling, and incredible actors, has become one of the best films of the past 20 years. And much like The Fall, this  year’s underdog film Beasts of the Southern Wild shares elements of a young girl and older man (in the case of BOSW it’s Hushpuppy and her father) as well as seeds of fantasy seen through the little girl’s eyes.  Then comes the issue of the acting. While Catinca Untaru had virtually no training and didn’t even speak English when filming began, I think she does a better job in the child actor category than Quvenzhané Wallis simply due to the fact that she learned from her fellow actors about the craft and it shows. Her emotions are varied and dynamic, honest and heart-felt, all while being unforced. At times, Wallis’ “Hushpuppy” seems to be struggling with giving a wide range of emotions. She seems to play “angry” and not actually be angry. Cantinca Untaru, on the other hand, seems to be sad when she is, be angry and frustrated when her character is and all in all, be more honest. But, this is not a comparison of Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Fall. I’m simply illustrating the fact that Untaru’s performance was just as good, if not better, than Quvenzhané Wallis’ at the same age (during filming.) That’s how good this film is. It has an influence over the films that come after it.

In fact, having trained actors alongside Untaru might have helped her performance in more ways than one as evidenced by this tidbit of trivia:

A miscommunication between the casting agent and Catinca Untaru led her to believe that Lee Pace 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.

The behind-the-scenes featurette delves into the trivia by showing the exact moment when Catinca Untaru learned that her co-star was not a paraplegic in actuality, but just a really fantastic actor. It takes an actor with extensive training in both The Method, The Stanislavski System, and even Meisner to pull off something as complex and in-depth as Pace did. It is evident that training does pay off in the end and no matter how natural one’s ability, a class or two in technique always helps.

As far as the visuals in the film, the next clip was shot on location in Taj Lake Palace, Lake Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India:

Again, in the behind-the-scenes footage of the film, what I find most interesting is the fact that they are on location.  In subsequent interviews about the movie both the director, Tarsem Singh, and actor, Lee Pace reference what it was like to film on location. Actor, Lee Pace speaking about the film:

Everyone should see this film for the visuals, the acting and the fact that it has been severely over-looked by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as mass audiences as well. Rent it on Netflix and take a journey all over the world. It is currently available to stream on Netflix.