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The Falls

The Falls PG rating

Peter Greenaway's epic first feature, constructed as an excerpt from an imagined, filmic directory listing everyone affected by VUE – the Violent Unknown Event

Animation & Artists Moving Image 1980 195 mins

Director: Peter Greenaway

Overview

Following a series of inventive shorts, Peter Greenaway arrived fully formed as a feature filmmaker with this highly confident, audacious epic.

A mockumentary of sorts, it’s constructed as an excerpt from an imagined, filmic directory listing everyone affected by VUE – the Violent Unknown Event – a mysterious apocalyptic occurrence that has left a substantial section of the British public speaking bizarre, invented languages, dreaming of water and identifying themselves with birds. The excerpt in question concerns everyone whose surname begins with ‘Fall’, hence the title. In description the film may sound like a dry (and somewhat foreboding – at over three hours) exercise, but in fact Greenaway’s film is an unconventional delight. Its series of extremely surreal biographies describe characters with unnerving obsessions and fantastical afflictions, all conveyed in Greenaway’s distinct, deadpan absurdist poetry. The two overriding themes are ornithology and geography, and Greenaway’s preoccupation with place prefigures the psychogeographic filmmaking of Patrick Keiller and Iain Sinclair. Keen observers of Greenaway’s work will find obscure references to many of his future films, including a first appearance for the ubiquitous Tulse Luper, but the film’s endlessly quotable dialogue can be admired by anyone: (“"She was a waterfall on legs"; “Most of them had turned into penguins”; “Her body reabsorbed her breasts”.)