Jonathan Glazer’s short startles with vivid sound and imagery, but doesn’t quite pay of its emotional impact.
I saw that director Jonathan Glazer and composer Mica Levi are set to release a new short film, Strausborg 1518, next week. The pair have worked together on two projects: the eerie but opaque feature film Under the Skin, and another short film, The Fall. This month I’ll go through their offerings, starting off with the short.
The Fall (2019)
A masked mob hunt down a man in the forest. What looks to be a lynching turns bizarre as the rope used to hang the man steadily un-spools as he apparently falls down a bottomless pit.
It’s a Jonathan Glazer Film, Alright!
One reason I haven’t tackled Under the Skin (despite having seen it twice and even read the book it was based on) was because it is so weird. Weird in a way where I just can’t decide if it’s effective, or just odd for oddities sake. The Fall certainly matches that description as well.
Besides the abrupt plot, fever-dream imagery, and stark lack of dialogue, the film also shares the gorgeous cinematography of Under the Skin. From the first scene of a violently shaking tree, you can spot Glazer’s visual style immediately. Glazer has a knack for camera angles, color compositions, and jarring movement/sound that create an indelibly unsettling experience; one that is beautiful but uncanny.
Noh Way Out.
The masks worn by everyone, the use of music, ambient sound, and stylized movement all seem drawn from Japanese Noh theater. Once again, it’s subtle but recognizable for those with experience in Japanese theater: the tree shakes in an obvious way that mimics the escalating rhythm of Noh music, matching it both in pace and sound. Similarly we get jarring and unsettling blares of music very much like what you’d hear in a Noh drama.
The Fall does an excellent job of startling a viewer and communicating dread. As the rope unwinds for minutes on end with no breakaway from the camera, your skin just crawls expecting another shock from either the music or camera. The same unnerving reserve is shown once we finally switch to the perspective of the man in the hole. The only problem is it doesn’t immediately bring any meaning to mind.
Doing a little digging, it’s said the film was inspired by (of all things) the infamous picture of the Trump kids holding a hunted animal. That lens winds up making a world of difference to interpreting the actions and tone of the film; the trouble is, like the Noh connection and stylistic similarity to Under the Skin, you’d need to come to the film with background knowledge instead of getting it from the film itself.
I think The Fall is a film you primarily experience instead of cerebrally grapple with. It’s main appeal is what it makes you feel in the moment. Students of film will also get quite a bit fodder for how Glazer and Levi evoke those feelings with camera and music. At just 7 minutes, it’s certainly well worth experiencing…just don’t expect a grand revelation beyond the visceral impact.