The Fall is a 2006 adventure fantasy film directed by Tarsem Singh, starring Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, and Justine Waddell. It is based on the screenplay of the 1981 Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho by Valeri Petrov. The film earned $3.2 million worldwide. The film was released to theaters in 2008.
Los Angeles,1915: stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is hospitalized, as he is bedridden and possibly paralyzed after a jump he took in his first film. He meets Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a young Romanian-born patient in the hospital who is recovering from a broken arm, and begins to tell her a story about her namesake. Alexandria is told she has to leave, but Roy promises to tell her an epic tale if she returns the next day.
The next morning, as Roy spins his tale of fantasy, Alexandria’s imagination brings his characters to life. Roy’s tale is about five heroes: a silent Indian warrior (Jeetu Verma), a muscular ex-slave named Otta Benga (Marcus Wesley), an Italian explosives expert called Luigi (Robin Smith), a surreal version of Darwin (Leo Bill) with a pet monkey, and a masked swashbuckling bandit. An evil ruler named Odious (Daniel Caltagirone) has committed an offense against each of the five, who all seek revenge. The heroes are later joined by a sixth hero, a mystic.
Alexandria vividly imagines her friends and people around her appearing as the characters in Roy’s story. Although Roy develops affection for Alexandria, he also has an ulterior motive: by gaining her trust, he tricks her into stealing morphine from the hospital pharmacy so that he can attempt suicide; a choice driven by his love leaving him for the actor for whom he provided the stunt footage. However, Alexandria returns with only three pills, having mistaken the “E” on the piece of paper Roy gave her for a “3”. The stories become a collaborative tale to which Alexandria also contributes. Alexandria herself becomes a character: while Roy is the masked bandit, she is his daughter. Roy talks Alexandria into stealing a bottle of morphine tablets locked in a fellow patient’s cabinet, and then downs it all. The next morning, Roy awakens from his sleep and realizes he is only alive because his neighboring patient is receiving a placebo rather than actual morphine. Alexandria, desperate to help Roy, sneaks out of bed to the pharmacy. She climbs onto the cabinet but loses her footing and falls. After surgery, she is visited by the bewheeled Roy, where he confesses his deception. He encourages Alexandria to ask someone else to end the story, but she insists on hearing Roy’s ending. Roy reluctantly begins the rest of the story.
The heroes die one by one, and it seems that Odious will be triumphant. Alexandria becomes upset, and Roy insists, “It’s my story.” She declares that it is hers too and exerts some influence on the course of the tale. Finally, the epic tale comes to an end with only the Bandit and his daughter remaining alive and Odious dying. Roy and Alexandria, along with the patients and staff of the hospital, watch a viewing of the finished ‘flicker’ that Roy appeared in. With everyone laughing, only Roy’s smile is broken in confusion when he sees that his life-threatening jump has been edited out of the film as another stuntman jumps instead.
Alexandria’s arm heals and she returns to the orange orchard where her family works. Her voice-over reveals that Roy had recovered and was now back at work again. As she talks, a montage of cuts from several of silent films’ greatest and most dangerous stunts plays; she imagines all the stuntmen to be Roy.
According to the director’s remarks on the DVD release of the film, Tarsem Singh largely financed the film with his own funds, determined to make the film according to his own vision, and paid members of the cast and crew on an equal basis rather than in more typical Hollywood fashion.
Singh’s commentary indicates the film was made over a period of four years and incorporates footage shot in over 20 countries, including India, Indonesia (Bali), Italy, France, Spain, Namibia, China (PRC), and numerous others, a few of which are not listed in the credits. The contemporary South African mental hospital which substitutes as an early 20th century Los Angeles hospital and the principal setting throughout the film remained operational (in a separate wing) during filming, according to the DVD commentaries.
The DVD supplementary features reveal that actor Lee Pace remained in a bed for most of the early filming at the director’s suggestion, convincing most of the crew that he was in fact unable to walk. The intention, Tarsem and Pace noted, was to maximize the realism of Roy’s physical limitations in the eyes of Catinca Untaru, whose lines and reactions as the character Alexandria were largely unscripted, and so were young Catinca’s spontaneous interactions with Pace’s character. For example, Alexandria’s misinterpreting the letter E as the number 3 in a note written by Roy—came about from an accidental misreading by the 6-year-old actress during filming, which the director then realized he could adapt into a clever twist in the story.
To further the realism of young Catinca’s performance, Tarsem had portions of the hospital scenes between Pace and his young costar filmed through small holes in the hospital bed curtains, maximizing the youngster’s spontaneous interactions with Pace despite the presence of the film crew surrounding them.