Thursday 5 July 2012

The Fall (2012)

Director: Ryan Thomas Andersen
Stars: Robert Rodenbach, David Rodenbach and Amy Vangellow
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
The Arizona Shorts selection that screened at this year's Phoenix Film Festival was a very strong one; every short that made the cut was worthy of the honour and it's no great task to talk about the reasons why. Except this one, Ryan Thomas Andersen's The Fall. On the face of it, it could be seen as the least of them. It wasn't the best film shown, Parallax being a deserved winner of the Best Arizona Short award. It wasn't the most technically outstanding. It was far from the most fun experience for the viewer. It wasn't a lot of things. In fact, it's a lot easier to detail what it wasn't than what it was. As part of an hour and a half of quality material, it seemed to be the bit before the middle that didn't really stand out in any easily quantified way. Yet it's stayed longest with me, resonating in my brain, and I think it's fair to say that above all the others, it's The Fall that has become my favourite film of the selection.

It's a story of two brothers, Nick and Steve, and much of the film is comprised of a single scene that sees the two of them catching up on the different paths they've followed in life. Nick is the achiever, having got married and become a cop, working undercover. Steve, on the other hand, took the wrong road, making a bad choice or two here and there. These characters are painted from very broad impressions rather than in draughtsmanlike detail, all notably vague and rough edged. It's all deceptive though. The tone of the discussion is almost a third character and we progress through its story arc far more than we do through any of the dialogue spoken. The story begins so loosely that it's tough to fathom but it tightens inexorably until we suddenly realise what's been going on all along and where we're going. The story is like a noose: claustrophobic and inevitable and, in the end, very emphatic indeed.

Every component part of the film is as tough to comment on as the story and probably for the same reasons. Everything is as deceptively rough, from the home video footage at the beginning onwards. Nick and Steve are played by Robert and David Rodenbach, presumably real brothers, which would account for the depth of the connection between them. They stood out as well as the camerawork or the lighting or the sound, which is to say they didn't. I can't single out any component of this film for attention. Everything is subsumed in the whole, and the whole is a deceptive thing that succeeds most at hiding what it is until it's ready to show its true face. I feel like reviewing it on the basis of a single viewing is a really bad idea. The IFP Phoenix judges got to see it progress in competition, awarding it Best Film in their Masterpiece Film Challenge and then again over all the 2011-2012 challenges together. I would dearly like to see it again.

Update (10 Jan 2014): And now I can. The Fall is now available to watch for free on Vimeo.

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