Thought. It is so rare in film today. The ever-hungry machine churning out popcorn fest after popcorn fest is plundering its way through the wasteland of the movie-going public’s brains. So little is invested, and even less is asked of us as we sit down to watch a movie. So many concessions are made with the hopes and dreams that what we saw may just actually be something worth remembering. As a result, we horror fans find ourselves reaching out to the fringe areas of film to find the goods, the types of films that challenge us to connect the narrative dots and at the same time offer compelling imagery to facilitate the story. This is the rare gem, the coveted treasure of it all – a film that makes us question, wonder, and maybe even worry about the lines around us in the universe that define who, where, and what we are.
Short films, as with short prose, give us a glimpse of something. An anecdote of some world that may be very close or (hopefully) beyond the reaches of the mind. Typically, short works either scratch the edge of brilliance or wallow in self-righteousness, pandering to their own shallowness. The advent of The Horror Channel serves to bolster the anticipation of more fans getting to see genre shorts. One that I am sure would make for quite interesting conversation is the description-defying voyage detailed in The Fall.
The Fall is an experimental film that relies so much on objectivity that to even try to go into a narrative description is near impossible. Born in the minds of two individuals who must have suffered some sort of trauma as children, The Fall is a visual journey into the heart of some sort of unknown, but where it actually goes is up to the viewer to decide. The film asks, no, expects us to plot the dots and fill in the lines, giving us only tantalizing clues to what may truly be going on.
Homages to the top minds of horror and the cinematic idols of the filmmakers are clearly seen. There is a body politic at hand in the film that deftly but dumbly recalls Cronenberg. The bio-sensual scenes drip with a gloppy ooze that is both beautiful and horrifying. Quite the conundrum, you don’t know whether to cheer or chuck. The manipulation of the flesh and its alteration or progression into something else is a key factor in most of Cronenberg’s existential epics. The Fall seems to take this and make it reach out of the body, out to the confines of reality, coating everything around the main character. A quasi womb encircles the protagonist, one that he seems to have created for himself.
Birth is a huge overlying theme – the pain of birth and the emergence into a world that is altogether unknown and possibly hostile. Horrific images that play out before us seem to echo the rise and evolution of individuality. Oddly enough, the author got a real THX-1138 battle for the self. Could we be witnessing the birth of the ego?
Other visual keys are plucked from various inspirations. All of them mold together well save for an obvious Ju-On reference, which I found more distracting than disturbing. The low-key effects play out well, and the wonderful use of black and white photography is employed to a great effect. Stark images creep out as easily from a bright white screen as they do from the dark. Masses and bodies are ill defined, creating a blurring of where one begins and another ends. Some of the scenes made me feel as if I were seeing what would happen in M.C. Escher’s mind if Cronenberg found a window into his brain for an afternoon.
One can’t help but appreciate the framework used in each shot. Take the film, cut out any scene, and you could have a painting. This is the zenith of filmmaking: no wasted space, every frame counts, and each second is tightly wrapped. Some play out more effectively than others, but it depends on the life experiences of the viewer acting as a filter for the absorption of such images, some allowing for connection and others not.
Clean and clear sound design and use of soundtrack allow the film to not become burdened with overbearing and useless noise. Use of restraint like this would certainly be welcomed by a lot of audiences in the world if Hollywood would just take a cue from individuals like the rogues who made this film.
Will you like The Fall? That depends on one thing: what you bring to the film. No two people will see the same thing as the film takes them by the hand, leads them around the back of the bathhouse, and shows its dark secrets. The puzzle pieces are there for anyone to put together, but in the end, is there any one way to solve it?
The Fall (2004)
A short film directed by Andrew Kasch and Marten Long
Running time 22:00 minutes
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