I recently fell head-over-heels in love. With a movie. If you know me, that won’t shock you. What might shock you is that it’s a relatively recent movie. From 2006, visionary director Tarsem Singh’s labor of love, The Fall.
It instantly rocketed to the top of my favorites list, which is saying something considering my top ten hasn’t changed in about twenty years and most of the films on it are more than sixty years old. I hadn’t been so transported by a modern film in years. Not only that, but it has changed the way I view my role as a writer and storyteller, a quantum shift.
Needing to connect with the opinions of others, I searched out reviews on-line and was staggered by how poorly this film had been received by mainstream industry critics. It has only a 59% aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes, ranking it significantly below such cinematic treasures as Talladega Nights and Jackass: Number Two.
So I began to carefully read the negative industry reviews in an effort to understand what it was that the people paid to professionally understand film did not, in fact, understand about this particular film. And what I discovered was this: they are Philistines.
Yeah, I’m sorry, but they are. There’s something very wrong when people who make a living watching movies almost willfully misunderstand a film that is all about understanding, provided you have a basic grasp of the universal language of symbolism and metaphor and creative narrative structure. And you would think a film critic would have something of a nodding acquaintance with those things.
What follows under the cut is my defense of the film against the most often-cited issues raised in those reviews. If you haven’t seen the film, this won’t make much sense. If you have and didn’t like it, maybe it will inspire you to try again. In any case, spoilers abound.