Franklyn, directed and written by Gerald McMorrow, starring Eva Green, Ryan Philippe, Bernard Hill, Sam Riley and William Faulkner (not the writer)
The Fall, written by Dan Golroy, Nico Soultanakis and Tarsem, directed by Tarsem, starring Catinca Untaru and Lee Pace
Many spoilers be here, for there is nothing to be said about these movies without discussing their endings, and I don’t see that they spoil the movies.
Milo: I heard this story once when I was a kid, or read it. It was about a storyteller who was so good at telling stories that everything he made up became real. So the storyteller creates a world for himself where he’s the king of the castle, has a beautiful princess on his arm. And then, one day, he wakes up. He looks around. He kisses her on the cheek and… legs it.
Milo: I don’t know. Even though his life was perfect, absolutely perfect, he had the feeling he should be somewhere else. With someone else.
From The Fall; this is a typical example of the respect that Tarsem has for the laws of optics
Promotional image for Franklyn; from left to right, Sam Riley as bereft lover, Ryan Philippe as masked man, Meanwhile City and Eva Green as disrubed art student
Now, finally, is the time I have to admit that I’ve never been quite comfortable with the classification of art into “great” and “not great.” Yes, I’ve myself indulged in it; but only in cases when I’ve been utterly certain. The reason that it is now that is the time is that I’m going to write about two utterly amazing fantastical movies which I cannot in honesty call great but which I don’t think I’ll ever be forgetting.
Franklyn is about four people: a masked man in Meanwhile City (the other three are in London) – a steampunk city in which it is the law to belong to religion, whether it be deep or based on washing machine instructions and in which the masked man is the only religionless man – trying to kill the head of a murderous religion (called, in a fit of inspiration, The Individual), an art student who enjoys attempting suicide, a bereft lover whose fiancé has just left him, and a father whose son escaped from the mental asylum on the eve of his home visit. Well, technically there’s also the guy who insists that your actions’ consequences are felt by people you haven’t met.
The Fall is about a five-year-old Latina girl Alexandria who’s broken her arm and by accident meets a stuntman with broken legs, Roy, in the hospital. Roy starts telling her a story about five bandits who have sworn to kill the terrible Governor Odious. Roy, however, has a death wish and… what he does about it, he invites my profoundest contempt (till the end, anyway, but I’ll come to that shortly).
The first thing in common between these two (apart from the fact that I watched them both this weekend) is that they are about the power of storytelling. The second thing in common is that I proudly admit that I don’t really understand them, though I have an emotional sympathy for them.
First, Franklyn. How can I describe the formidability of Mr. McMorrow’s vision without going on for a thousand words about the plot? Simple: the fifth guy disappears. Ka-boom, we feel as the camera slowly zooms in on an unmanned mop.
For those (everyone, I expect) for whom the last was too vague, here’s the deal: masked man is the “alter-ego” of the son of fourth guy (Meanwhile City exists only in his head), head of the religion is fourth guy and fifth guy… in Meanwhile City he’s the mayor. In London, he is the pastor at some church, a janitor at the hospital in which the art student is a regular who says that you action affects the people you’ve met and a guy in a mental institution who shares the bereft lover’s hallucination of his childhood sweetheart; he’s nothing either more or less than some sort of overseer of stories. And in the end, he disappears, right after some tricks with character placement subtly suggest that all four protagonists exist within each other’s heads, much like this.
Yes, like much good fantasy, Franklyn is about the power of stories. I just don’t know how. Franklyn is the more formidable in terms of vision, but The Fall is the one which stumps me more deeply.
It’s scary. Roy almost kills Alexandria in his attempt to get enough morphine to kill himself and then concludes his story in a way that scares me will traumatise her for life, and yet I’m with him. This is how the story deserves to end, some sort of balance: the real guy doesn’t die, so the people in the story have to. It makes no sense to me, but I’m emotionally completely taken up.