silent-movie stuntman who has suffered a crippling fall on the set of a Western. Now he's in an L.A.-area hospital, paralyzed from the waist down.
Befriending a fellow patient - a young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) who has been hospitalized with a broken arm (yes, she also fell) - Roy starts spinning a yarn to entertain the child. It's about a masked bandit who assembles a team of mystics and warriors for a quest to destroy an evil dictator named Odious.
Hooked by Roy's tale, Alexandria mentally populates these roles with the people she sees around her every day.
Thus, Roy becomes the dashing, swashbuckling hero. And a nurse (Justine Waddell) becomes a threatened princess in the fantasy.
The muscular black man (Marcus Wesley) who delivers blocks of ice to the hospital is transformed into an African warrior. An orderly (Leo Bill) assumes the role of scientist Charles Darwin, who travels with a monkey that is at least as smart as he is. The evil Odious assumes the form of a preening actor (Daniel Caltagirone) with whom the pre-fall Roy was competing for the attentions of a beautiful actress.
But Roy has ulterior motives. His elaborate tale is bait in a suicide plot - he wants to convince the impressionable Alexandria, who's allowed to move freely around the hospital, to bring him enough morphine that he can end it all.
Little by little, though, the story he's telling the little girl begins to give even its depressed creator some hope.
Pace (of TV's "Pushing Daisies") is an attractive actor who imbues the superficially outgoing Roy with a deep reservoir of angst and desperation.
Unfortunately, he must play most of his scenes against a first-time actress who, far from giving a performance, seems instead to be battling attention deficit disorder.
Tarsem has said he chose Untaru, a Romanian who reportedly spoke little English when she was cast, because unlike other child performers she was so unaffected. This is ironic, inasmuch as the girl's scattershot work - most of the time she seems supremely bored - is so unfocused that it feels hugely affected.
Nor is there anything compelling about the fantasy sequences, which lack any sort of coherent narrative structure. There's no logic - characters do and say things as if they're making it up as they go along. Which may be close to the truth.
This brings us to the intriguing tale of how "The Fall" was made.
It took four years, with Tarsem - who self-financed the film - picking commercial jobs that would allow him to shoot in exotic locations around the world.
Once his day's work on the paying gig was finished, the enterprising Tarsem would use fabulous locales like Egypt's pyramids or the Taj Mahal as settings for Roy's adventure yarn. (There are underwater shots of a swimming elephant obviously obtained while Tarsem was filming a hallucinogenic TV commercial with the same aquatic pachyderm.)
Visually, "The Fall" is spectacular, overflowing with otherworldly landscapes, awesome architecture and colorful costumes.
It's epic moviemaking on a very modest budget - and virtually free of the computer enhancement on which most filmmakers now rely.
But it doesn't make a bit of sense. And after a while, even pretty images become boring when there's nobody in them we care about. *