(Credit: The Fall)

'The Fall' review: Jonathan Glazer's darkly surreal short film


Despite only appearing on the rare occasion, Jonathan Glazer’s presence always seems to demand your attention. His latest work, a six-minute short which seemingly hijacked BBC two airways last Sunday night, is no different, recalling the darkly surreal tone of his early music video work for the likes of Massive Attack and Radiohead.

A theatrical folk horror, The Fall follows a mob of masked neanderthals who take joy in toying with their human prey they find helplessly clutching to a thin tree trunk. Collapsing the tree, they collect his body and pose with him for a photo, holding him as a trophy prize before a noose is tied around his neck and he is sent down a seemingly endless shaft. The grimacing porcelain masks of the faceless thugs watch on as he falls, lurking in the shadows, joyfully dancing at his demise. 

We find the man remarkably lodged in the shaft, an impossible body position fixing himself between the wet, jagged rocks. This is an altogether stressful ordeal accentuated through ominous cinematography, showing a pointless pin-hole of light at the top of the shaft. We wonder for quite how long the slow moving camera will follow his efforts. His fate at the top of the shaft is hardly promising, the reality being that it would likely match the suffering he would feel if he just gave up and fell. Whilst we root for his survival against all odds, it is hopeless. There is no salvation at the end of the tunnel.

So gloriously devoid of joy, Glazer’s six-minute delve into this pessimistic dystopia is packed with pure dread and fear, akin to the hopelessness of Scarlett Johansson’s lair in his previous masterpiece ‘Under the Skin’. This dread is intensified by Mica Levi’s industrial soundscape, filling the situation with a metallic hum, a sense of urgency and panic that tightly interweaves with the man’s dark fate. 

Speaking in the Guardian, Glazer speaks of the film’s influences in the current lynch-mob mentality festering in modern society, “I think fear is ever-present…and that drives people to irrational behaviour. A mob encourages an abdication of personal responsibility. The rise of National Socialism in Germany, for instance, was like a fever that took hold of people. We can see that happening again.”

This is a theme he will inevitably be further exploring in his holocaust drama currently in pre-production, following a Nazi officers love affair with the camp commanders wife. Until then, we can ‘enjoy’ the ever-present fear of Glazer’s The Fall. Hopelessness epitomised.

Watch the short, here.