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Monthly Archives: December 2010

The last time I finished watching a movie and started watching it all over again was … was “The Fall” really the first time I ever did that? It would not surprise me, as it is truly (and that is the word that has been used most frequently in the reviews I have seen) astonishing in so many ways. My first outburst was utter bewilderment that I had never even heard of the film before The Movieness wrote about it in her blog. Looking into production history, casting, location scouting etc. I can only say that books must be written about this film, or films about the astonishing people involved.

In terms of story, this is a melange of Terry Gilliam fantasy, Princess Bride adventure, Pan’s Labyrinth mystery and – very visibly – Baraka. The latter struck me as odd, because there are at least three images / situations that could just have been taken from Baraka, but no relationship between the two films was mentioned. Did director Tarsem just bluntly steal the locations and the folklore dances he used? Well done!

Apart from the crazily beautiful locations used, the most stunning thing about the film is the casting choice for the female lead, a supposedly 4-year old Romanian girl. The … artificial naturalness … hm… I don’t know, the way she uses English as a strange language that she hardly masters, the way dialogues involve her just not understanding what her counterpart says, and vice versa, this very open and straightforward way of talking that is unique to those who have just started to learn a foreign language and have not yet learned to hide their intentions behind barriers of word shells … loveable to the extreme! I have never been so fascinated by a child actor, ever. Because she remains natural, also in her limited understanding of what the story involves that she is told. She mixes up the Indians she is told about with the Indians that she remembers from other stories. She does not understand why the narrator is killing off characters and tries to claim the story for herself. She is as deeply involved in the story as only a person can be who has not yet learned how to shield off against pain and peril.

The script does not shy away from sending the heroes down dark places, and if any proof had been needed after the beautiful image of the masked heroes’ brother’s execution, the showdown finally asserts that this is not for the faint of heart, that the happy endings awaiting the audience are of a different nature than you would be expecting in a fantasy sword and sorcery story. This is grim stuff, and heart-breaking, but as hospitalised stuntman Roy points out upon Alexandria’s complaints: It’s MY story!

Review by Roger Ebert
And some background by Ebert, including the nice quote: “The agencies that made commercials gave me very good money and I didn’t complain about it. I put it aside like a little squirrel and at the end I ended up with a project that I wanted to do very badly and threw it all away, so now I’m penniless but as happy as a pig in poo.”

I don’t know Joy Division, I don’t know Ian Curtis. I hence cannot assess how meaningful these stages in the life of a young man and a young band are for the history of rock and indy music. It is hard to judge what phase of a band’s career this film shows – or rather, what heights the influence of the band had reached at the time of its termination. The young musician at centre stage who got himself into a marriage and fatherhood finds that he lacks skills for both roles. And both roles keep him from doing the only thing he does with passion, music. His wife is depicted as an actual roadblock to his artistic ambitions, maybe not so much because she is a little bit boring and accepts too quickly the role as mother and housekeeper, but probably because her husband sees her as such and early on gives her the impression that he feels embarrassed when she is around backstage or at the recording sessions.
The whole film looks grimy and bleak, the Manchester images that we are used to from the 70s and 80s, where everyday life is borderline depressing, and where even dinner at the family table looks and feels and sounds stuffy and dusty and thoroughly unpleasant. The black and white imagery adds to this, as does the music that the band with its slightly lucid singer with the creepy voice performs. This is a time when you put on an Iggy Pop record to calm down, and when chilling with your friends means having some beer and a lot of cigarettes on the sofa (sometimes wearing mascara), but not necessarily talking to them.
I wanted to see the film for years, and was reminded now by the new movie by director Anton Corbijn (, who had to explain how it came about that George Clooney apparently became aware of Control before signing on to the American with this director. He is a master of images and he can create an atmosphere. The sample of two tells me he seems to like characters that are or want to be dreamers, want to wonder what all this nonsense they got themselves into is all about. They are very different characters, of course, and chose different paths of action to get out of what they feel to be a mess. But the American and the Manchesterian both are cut from the same wood, the loners with a talent.

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