The Falling, quite simply, is a film about people falling over. And when I say ‘people’ I mean young women at an all-girls school in the 1960s. And when I say ‘falling’ I refer to what is described in the film as fainting, but to those of us sitting in the audience appears to to be a mix between orgasmic shudders and interpretive dance.
The film attempts to be a dreamlike mediation on what is means to be a young woman – discovering both gender and sexuality in a repressed and limiting society. Instead the final product appears to be that of wish fufillment – young girls in short skirts and pigtails fallling and swaying with diluted desire. I desperately wanted to be moved by this film, to engage with such a difficult and profound topic as self-discovery. Instead I was moved to laughter and, rather embarrassingly on one occasion, snorts of laughter.
During a ten minute montage in which the ‘fainting’ epidemic spread across the school, we witnessed nearly every one of the schoolgirls fall to ground gracefully in slow motion. Every girl but one, the only non-caucasian schoolgirl. Perhaps the presence of only one student from a minority background was intended to represent the social era the film was set in. Instead it came across as a type of tokienstic casting. Her absence in these proceedings was only briefly touched upon within the film and not answered as to why she was unaffected by the epidemic..Considering that the girls ‘fainting’ was being aligned with their discovering of their own sexuality – it felt like an awkward statement was being attempted. In fact ‘awkward’ is the best adjective to describe the majority of this film.
The film’s main setting is an all-girls school, which from the opening credits plays up to the sterotypes society associates with such a setting. No one simply looks at each other in this film – every single look is that of longing. Every touch is a caress. Everyone appears to fancy everyone else. Characterisation is simply replaced with homoerotism. It is almost as if the filmmakers decided, ‘Why bother developing these characters into fully rounded figures, with personalities and interests? Instead let us use one dimensional character types to fufill every possible cliche that has appeared in these sorts of films since St Trinians!’
Every single one of those stereotypes is within this film, but this does not to have been done to make a point or observation of social commentary. Instead, one can only presume it was an attempt to make some kind of statement, trying to reinvent them in an Arthouse style.This attempt, however, is unsuccessful as the camera lingers for far too long and obtrusively to be poginant. It is difficult to care about the fate of any of the girls as we are given little reason to. We watch them fall and fondle, and remain ambivalent to their fate.
P.S – A note to the film makers. A sexual act is still a sexual act – no matter if it is presented in a long shot, mid shot or extreme close up. The overuse of the former does not make it artisian. Nor does overlaying it with pretentious ambient music. Or intercutting it with pretty scenes of nature.Such attempts at bypassing convention make the final product rather tedious, laboured and farcial.