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The Fallen

October 2007 SITE MAP   SEARCH

The Fallen
cast: Daniel Asher, Matthew Black, Justin Brett, Wolfram Teufel, and Carmine Raspaulo

director: Ari Taub

104 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Scanbox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
In the autumn of 1944, the Second World War is working its slow way up the spine of Italy. This ensemble piece features the collision of three platoons (American, Italian fascist and German), a section of Italian partisans, and some assorted Italian civilians, all mixed together to show the futility of war. The fog of war is also demonstrated here, although not always intentionally. The Americans are marching north and will eventually collide with a German section that has been reinforced with an Italian section. Given that Italy had changed sides by this time, it is to be presumed that the Italian section is under the authority of Mussolini's northern puppet state.

The Italians are resentful of the Germans, and the Germans are contemptuous of the Italian soldiers, and much brawling takes place, although their respective commanders come to develop a respect for one another. There is also a small group of Italian criminals who deal in wine smuggling and looting under the leadership of the thuggish Rossini (Carmine Raspaulo). They are introduced to us before the partisans, which initially causes some confusion for the viewer until we realise that the two groups are totally unconnected.

To be honest, Rossini and his crew could have been cut from the film without sacrificing too much of the narrative thrust. At several points in the film it is tempting to think that it has been made up as it went along. There is an accompanying documentary that, alongside the trailer, comprises the extras that come with this disc, and it is recommended viewing. To those of us used to the usual Hollywood hagiographies, this 20-minute featurette comes across as entertaining and refreshingly candid.

The film was indeed patched together in places. Ari Taub has done a remarkable job in putting this film together with a minimal budget and an unknown cast (many of the American actors have since left the industry), and when first watching this, I was convinced I was watching something that had been made for Italian television. This is largely through the casting of actors of the correct nationality to play the relevant roles. The Germans in particular come across well, playing out their part in a way that's not too far from Peckinpah's Cross Of Iron. And full credit to the actor playing the Scottish POW escapee hiding out with the Italian villagers - his accent did not offend a fellow Scot.

The forests of New York state put in a convincing shift as the hills of Italy, and it is a pity that they have been let down by some of the human actors. Many of the Americans lack polish, and some of the Italians seem to be playing it for laughs. It is a film that could have been edited down to an hour and have been all the better for it, especially as it takes a while to get moving. One begins to fall under the impression that it is some sort of antiwar drama that is trying to prove that it is possible to make a film about war without showing any conflict, but that all changes towards the end.

Curiously enough, one of the Italian actors is named Sergio Leone, and we are eventually embroiled in a chaotic spaghetti western of a film that seems to have no moral point to make. It's an interesting film that manages to be both riveting and painful at different times.

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