The Fall

The Fall is a film, not a novel, but I think it is an important film for anyone who writes fiction that tells a story. The basic plot involves two individuals in the hospital from falls they have taken. One is a movie stuntman, who had fallen from a train bridge; the other is a young girl who had fallen while picking oranges as a migrant worker.

Through the course of the movie, the stuntman narrates a fantastic story of love, betrayal, revenge, and despair to the girl. He has “ulterior motives” and is telling the story in order to persuade the child to get him something he wants. She both succeeds and fails, but that is not important to the point of this post.

What is important is the nature of the storytelling. We slowly learn that the events and characters in the stuntman’s story parallel in important ways events, characters, and influences in his own life. This much is commonplace, though what a vivid story he tells! What we get to see as viewers (and as writers) is how the girl sees the story in his words. She in turn adds aspects of her own experience and understanding to the tale.

The film does a vivid job of depicting the act of storytelling, from the perspectives of both the teller and the listener. It is the same as for a writer’s creative act, and the creative act the reader conducts. Too often we are told we must give the reader every detail and nuance, lest they miss our point. I’ve never much held to that ethic, knowing that, for example, the reader is going to “see” my character however she imagines him despite how I might dress him or arrange his face. Many writers don’t give their readers credit or even appreciate how they participate.

The plot of the film is, perhaps, a tiny bit predictable, but the telling is so good that this is hardly important. The sets and the costumes are lavish and outlandish — well worth seeing the film on their own — and I understand that there were no special effects used in the film making, which is astonishing.

In many ways this film reminded me of The Princess Bride, but most especially from the framing of the narrative technique. If you watch it on DVD, be sure to watch the deleted scenes for one involving Charles Darwin. “Don’t listen to the priest, Darwin!”

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