I was going to slap down an “A” as my grade for The Falls but that would be disingenuous. It would imply that I loved watching the movie. And while I found it very entertaining (and fascinating and awe-inspiring and overwhelming) I don’t know if the word “enjoy” really came up. It took me about a week to get through The Falls, Peter Greenaway’s legendary three-and-a-half-hour opus on the human condition told through a radically absurd lens of faux-hyperactive academia. I want everyone I know to see The Falls, but I never want to sit through it again.
How to describe The Falls? It is a mock documentary – a mock filmed encyclopedia, really. A document is being created giving thumbnail descriptions of every one of the twelve million people who suffered during the “VUE” or Violent Unkown Event.” We are simply watching one chapter – the chapter of everyone whose last name starts with FALL.
The VUE may or may not have been a massive blow-back strike on behalf of birds toward mankind’s invasion of airspace. (Tippy Hedren iconography abounds.) As a result, many VUE victims now are either mutating into birds, are having trouble with gravity or are simply obsessed with flying.
What is on the screen, though, is a barrage of text. Drawings, graphs, photos, archive film, all to a dippy Michael Nyman march and set against dry voice over narration (or multiple narrations.) The net result is far out, freaky comedy. It’s like a less silly Monty Python, but still damned amusing.
Lists, quizes, puns (visual, oral and aural), metatextual jokes and flat-our silliness hit us in the face as if we’ve been smacked by the world’s biggest, thickest dictionary.
This is, frankly, more a gigantic art project than a movie and luckily it can all be played with online. Go nuts, I dare ya.