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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Fall (2006)

I was dreading this one a little. I saw it once in the theater, loved it, bought it on DVD, and I never watched it again until tonight. This is, unfortunately, one of those movies that became marred by the circumstances under which I saw it. I cried my eyes out when I saw it because it's beautiful and heartbreaking but I feared it because it was the movie I saw on my first "date" (I thought it was a date, he didn't until later) with my ex-husband. I worried it would bring on the big, ugly cries for a bunch of other reasons. It's just got lots of baggage. But I'm really glad I didn't get rid of the DVD.

It occurs to me that lots of people missed this one. If that's you, you should remedy that. But here's a brief synopsis. A five-year-old girl is recovering from a fall in a 1920s LA hospital when she meets a stuntman (baby Lee Pace!!) who is also recovering from falls both physical and emotional. They forge a sweet, though unhealthy friendship through stories the stuntman tells and the young girl imagines.

Watching it now, I kept thinking, "gosh what a weird movie for a first date" but it was also kind of prescient? "There are no happy endings with me" hit me like a cartoon anvil this time. The cynical look at love. The deception. All of it rang so strangely true as though I was observing a moment from another person's life. I'm almost sad I waited so long to watch it again because it is ultimately a movie about grief and I saw myself in so many of the dark moments Lee Pace's Roy Walker goes through. Dark stuff I'm only now starting to let myself explore. I was a wounded animal in the years that followed my marriage imploding and I wounded a lot of others as I thrashed and bled on everything and everyone around me. I'm ashamed of how I acted in those worst moments but I'm grateful for the beauty and the rawness that director Tarsem (Singh) coaxes out of that ugliness. I am grateful that Roy is a whole and sympathetic character when he could very easily be only pitiful and despicable. I've longed stopped framing the story of my life through the lens of having survived and escaped an abusive marriage, but this was the first time I could observe myself in that story and forgive myself. A huge step. (An external milestone on this topic was reached this week, too! A favorite colleague whom I've known for a few years was surprised to learn I'm divorced. It doesn't define me any more!)

Visually, this film is a stunner. At times it feels like story elements are taped together in order to deliver some of the visuals, but the conceit of the storytelling makes it work. The use of primary colors, specifically against stark and desolate landscapes is breathtaking. (It made me think very hard about adding Zhang Yimou's Hero to my list. Another brilliant use of color and romantic imagery juxtaposed with violence and grief. But I have to find the non-Tarantino edit...) I think the success of the visuals really rest with costume designer Eiko Ishioka - regular designer for Tarsem as well as the costume designer for the Coppola Dracula. Remarkable work. The Italian bomb makers costume, in particular, stands out for me with the color and silhouette but I need the Bandit's costume in my closet like yesterday. I'm really digging wide leg linen trousers right now and I'm always a sucker for military lines. And wide brim hats.

I'm also a huge sucker for storytelling conceits that bleed through an interior fourth wall and embrace misunderstandings. Once it became clear that Alexandria and Roy understood the word "Indian" very differently, you begin to pick up on other misunderstandings and the effect is charming. The double casting of hospital workers and residents and story characters was lovely. It all beautifully evoked what it meant to be fully taken in by a story when we're young and hopefully what good storytelling can still do for us now.

Catinca Untaru, as Alexandria, is darling. But this movie reinforced that I am not cut out to be a mother. Much appreciation to all my friends and loved ones who have that deep well of patience.

Lee Pace is beautiful. Stop casting him as an alien or whatever. Bring back guyliner. Let's just all take a collective moment to appreciate how pretty Lee Pace is.

It's cheesy, but I couldn't stop thinking about this quote as I wrote this entry: "If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down." -Mary Pickford

Porcelain, grout, acrylic paint on MDF. "Americanus Exoticus"


-Hey! It's a medium I did not enjoy! There was bound to be one!

-It was a tough week/project. On top of diving in on thoughts of my divorce and all that, I made my nigh annual trip out to the theater that broke me. It's a grief I carry in my heart far more presently than the marriage, and it's been almost as destructive to me. Just trying to write this paragraph has sent me into an anxiety tailspin. Blech. Anywho, going out there, even though the play was fun and the company lovely, broke me for a couple days. And then the last thing I wanted to do was face grief. Avoidance is so much easier/worse.

-My marriage was abusive and the divorce took a couple years. Not because it was litigious but because he had all the power and I was terrified to push things. I don't deal well with anger, as an emotion, because it was Bad in my house growing up. Bad People got angry. But that's nonsense. Everyone gets angry and we need to learn to deal with it. I had a lot of anger in the divorce and to deal with it I would buy loner plates at thrift stores (I never broke up sets), wrote what was making me angry on them and then break them. So when thinking about this film and the grief that it explores I think about breaking plates in the alley behind my crappy studio apartment. So I decided to do that again. But artfully (hopefully).

-It was meant to be an ombre, indicative of the scene in the desert with the blood soaked fabric, but I was really impatient/sleepy/stressed when I did the grout and I pooched it.

-I tried to remove some of the grout after it had dried but it took paint with it and that seemed contrary to my feelings in the piece. If anything, I cover up the anger. I don't erase it. So I left it pooched.

-I feel like so much of this is A METAPHOR which I generally hate in art but it can't not be. Anger heals but what's broken can't be made whole, though it can be fixed. Butterflies are, in general, a symbol in pop culture that I roll my eyes at but Darwin's pursuit of the Americanus Exoticus and the fact that it appeared as a different butterfly each time really resonated for me. The delicate and elusive nature of growth. I will continue to pursue it.

-Shout out to my colleague, Lydia, for not only helping me break plates but contributing some poetry to the butterfly plate.

-I'm *astonished* I only cut myself once. Lots of ceramic splinters, though.

So pleased to move on to lighter fare this coming week with Tron. Go watch Tron and then come back and we'll chat about Tron. Tron.

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