Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dreaming in the Dark

I’ve been meaning to write movie reviews for a while now, because I absolutely love the art of film, but I was unsure how to go about it. Do I review every movie I watch? Or do I just talk about the ones I fall in love with? I have decided on the later, and will write reviews on only my very favorite movies. However, if you see a movie listed in the right-hand column, which I don’t review, and you want to know my reasons behind my rating, you may always feel free to leave me a comment and ask me to provide you with a mini-review.

When I was in college, I took an introduction to film class. The professor told us about a study that was done on people's brains as they were watching a movie in a darkened theater. Turns out the brain showed the same neurological patterns as when someone is dreaming. It makes sense, if you think about it. Watching a film in a darkened theater is like dreaming with your eyes open. You forget yourself, you stop noticing your environment, you stop thinking about your day to day problems, and you are taken to another place - reality is suspended – and you are totally absorbed, carried away, reacting only to the pictures on the screen. That is why I have chosen the label “Dreaming in the Dark” for my movie posts. Now… on to the review!

I am a big fan of fairy tales of all shapes and sizes. So I can’t begin to tell you how my heart swelled with excitement when I saw the opening title panel on the movie The Fall, which read, “Once upon a time…” The story is set in a hospital in Los Angeles in the 1920s. An adorable little girl with a broken arm, named Alexandria, befriends a stunt man, Roy, who is recovering from an on-set accident. To pass the time, he begins to tell her a story.

As we hear Roy’s narration, the film shows us the fantastical images Alexandria conjures up. These images move and shift right before our eyes in beautiful and humorous ways, as Roy adapts and changes the story on the fly to suit Alexandria’s demands. It’s freeform, yet works with the basic archetypes of any good story. There is the Black Bandit (our hero), a tree person (a mystic), a beautiful princess (the love interest) an explosives expert, an Indian and a freed slave (the warriors), and, last but not least, Charles Darwin and his pet monkey, Otis (the comic relief). They are on a mission (a journey) to overthrow the evil Overlord Odius (the bad guy).

As Roy and Alexandria’s friendship becomes more complicated, the real world of the hospital and the world of the storyland begin to blur. Things take a dark turn, and we learn that real life doesn’t always guarantee happy endings like in the fairy tales, or perhaps happy endings are a choice that each one of us can make?

This was a beautiful movie. I laughed more than I had expected to, and I will admit, cried on a couple of occasions. The little actress they found to play Alexandria is amazing and it is her gifted acting, along with the story, that moved me to tears. I posted several pictures, but even still, they cannot convey what an experience it is to see this film.

Not only am I a fairy tale fanatic, but I love storytelling (a dying art in our day and age). This film played around with several of the ideas associated with storytelling. It showed how storytelling is a way of communicating to each other, of connecting to each other. It showed how the symbols of fairy tales and myths speak to us, and how they speak of eternal truths. It even makes a small commentary on how film making is its own form of storytelling, when it shows Roy making an early silent film. And of course, the film itself, is telling you a story. A story within a story. I love it.

I would say this movie is similar to another one of my all-time favorites, Pan’s Labyrinth, in that the fairy tale blends with reality, and it has a similar dark tone and more adult type of story. It’s definitely not a movie for little kids. This is not a Disney fairy tale. However, in thinking back over the film, I’m not sure why it was rated R, except for a few brief moments of fantasy violence when the warriors are fighting the evil soldiers. An interesting side note, absolutely no CGI effects were used in this film. I was floored when I found that out. The director created all these amazing images with simple camera tricks or traditional physical special effects. Amazing.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I always know a film is awesome when it haunts me and I find that I’m still thinking about it days after seeing it. Such is the case with this film. It is now at the top of my “to purchase” list. If you've seen it (or plan to see it) leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Jessie said...

Miss White, I absolutely loved "Pan's Labyrinth". It is one of my favorite films of all time. The cinematography is so amazing, combined with the costumes and the wondrous story, a truly unforgettable film. I saw in the bonus features of the DVD that making the movie almost killed the director. I'm not sure if he was being facetious or serious. But seeing that film was like viewing a de Vinci or the David by Michaelangelo. I can only imagine the personal turmoil one goes through during the creation process.

What did you think about the subtitiles in "Pan's"? I thought it added to the mystique since I do not speak Spanish. Just one more detail I thought added to the experience.

So, I am looking forward to "The Fall". I'm almost certain I will enjoy it. Thank you for the recommendation.

D.L. White said...

Yay! Another Pan's Labyrinth fan! :) I love, love, love that movie! The story in Pan is tighter than The Fall. I think Pan is more successfully executed, but The Fall is still really good.

I saw an interview with Guillermo Del Toro (the director of Pan) and he said the movie took an emotional and physical toll on him, just because it was such a special project for him, and he's a perfectionist,workaholic etc. He just worked day and night on it. He lost like, 60lbs (probably from stress and not eating). It sounds like it was a labor of love - and it paid off, IMHO. I'm excited to see his version of "The Hobbit" that he's currently filming.

Funny story about the subtitles... we went to see Pan in the theater and when we bought the tickets, the guy behind the counter said, "Uh, you know this is in Spanish with subtitles?" and we said "Yes," then he said, "Do you still want the tickets?" Perplexed, we said "Yes, why wouldn't we?" The guy then proceed to tell us about all the people who had walked out of the movie and wanted their money back because they didn't realize they were going to have to read subtitles... we thought that was just sad... They missed out on a great film.

chandy said...

The Fall looks interesting just from the pretty pictures you posted. I am so in the mood for a grown-up dinner and movie...I think it's time to schedule a date night.

I'm glad you found this blog, Jes! You guys seem to have a lot in common. Perhaps you'd like to join us at our book club sometime, Miss White?

D.L. White said...

Ooo... a book club?!?!? :D That would be awesome!!!

raven said...

The Fall is going down as a "MUST see" on my movie list. Thanks for the review. You know, you are my favorite movie reviewer. ;) I also love Pan's Labyrinth and Devil's Backbone, so I am sure I will love this movie too. I enjoy anything related to story telling and the idea of a story within a story is exciting. I can't wait. I gotta find a baby sitter to see it in the theater though. I have a two year old. Otherwise I'll just have to Netflix it.