Peter Greenway's 'The Falls (1980)', made after a period of unique short films is by no means an amateur work shot by an unsure hand. In fact, many Greenaway enthusiasts consider this his best film from an oeuvre which includes notable features such as 'The Cook, The Thief, The Wife and Her Lover' 'A Zed & Two Noughts' 'Drowning by Numbers' etc. It's trademark Greenaway, a filmic encyclopedia that exhibits all his obsessions with list-making, cataloguing, ornithology, and intelligent witticism. This is as far from mainstream film-making as it gets-'so steer clear if you have a short attention span and propensity for dramatic stimulus every five seconds. I'm sorry but, it's strictly art-house stuff.
The basic premise of the narrative is that people are struck by a malevolent occurrence known as the VUE (Violent Unknown Event). So, in a step to further investigate the consequences of the event, the VUE commission has compiled a list of people whose surnames begin with the letters F-A-L-L and all of who've been struck by the VUE (supposedly over 19million people are infected, but the taxonomy has been narrowed down this particular way). Now we have 92 people whose surnames begins with F-A-L-L (Fallbaez, Falllows, Fllbateo, Fallax etc); thus, 92 short biographies detailing their lives and the VUE's effects on them will be presented to us throughout the length of the film (which is a whopping 3+ hours). We learn that most victims are blessed with new languages (of which there are 92), an interest in ornithology, physical deformations, and some with an ability to fly (Bio 81, Ameror Fallstag). As such, the 92 victims' short and sometimes non-existent biographies are narrated in a faux-documentary style by a monotonous narrator, strictly in a bureaucratic way-'but that itself is a parody, as the desire to seriously catalogue this absurd disaster results in some moments of 'nerdy' comic humor ('On the night of June 12th of the VUE, Carlos's wife suffered a stroke, and Carlos transferred his affection to a turkey')
From a personal point of view, this maybe the most unique 'first' feature from any renowned film director (David Lynch's 'Eraserhead' comes close), yet the exhausting and at times tedious encyclopediac detailing found in 'The Falls' is unrivaled. The 92 Bio's are all structured in a different way, so in a sense they are 92 separate films-'disparate in tone, mood, editing etc. Peter Greenaway himself has stated that it could be '92 different ways to make a film'.
The best way to approach this 'difficult' picture is to first get a whiff of the style via Greenaway's early short films (some of which are referenced in the 'Falls'), such as 'A Walk Through H' or ' or 'Vertical Features Remake'. You'll note that there are some common characters throughout, such as Tulse Luper, Cissie Colpitts, Van Hoyten etc-'I'll leave you the trouble of figuring them all out. Nevertheless, as stated earlier, 'The Falls' is considerably atypical even when compared to Greenaway's later, more celebrated works. So come prepared, and expect to be exhausted and awed, bored and excited as you wade through this alphabetically catalogued disaster.
Review by Trp1985 from the Internet Movie Database.