The Falls

The Bird on the Hill-From The Falls-Peter Greenaway 1980
The Bird on the Hill-From The Falls-Peter Greenaway 1980

I have previously featured a short clip of Pollie Fallory  (# 74 in the VUE directory) giving the Bird List Song socks in my post Persistent Rumours of Encroaching Ice, however I only mentioned the film it is excerpted from in a very casual aside.Well, there is a time and place for everything and a more detailed summary seems in order as part of the series on birds in art, film and literature.

The Falls is an experimental mock-documentary from 1980 and was the first feature length film of the director Peter Greenaway, who would later go onto direct A Zed & Two Noughts, The Belly of an Architect and his most famous, or rather infamous film, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. 

The Falls purports to a filmed representation of the biographies of 92 (a number that recurs frequently the movie, its significance however remains unexplained, like so much else) victims of the Violent Unknown Event (or VUE for short) whose surnames begin with the letters FALL. The 92 people listed are meant to represent a cross section of the 19 million people worldwide who were affected by the VUE.

As the cause of  VUE is obviously unknown, we can only gather clues from the biographies, all of which are filmed in a bewildering array of techniques, though all with a earnest, old school documentary style narration. The VUE may, or may not have been the Responsibility of Birds, but it has left those afflicted with an obsession with birds (and/or unaided flight), as well as bizarre medical conditions including six part hearts and re-opening of old wounds. The VUE also resulted in 92 new languages appearing and sexual quadmorphism (in addition to the traditional two sexes another two have come into being and accorded classification).

All in all this perplexing, brilliant and infuriating movie comes over like a cross between Borges and Monty Python, with elements of Kafka in its portrayal of bureaucracy. It does however slyly acknowledge its own limitations, with many scenes of cars or taxiing air-planes pointlessly going around in circles, and with the deadpan voice-over commenting that the various ridiculously named characters suffer from the inability to tell a good joke from a bad one.

I have included illustrations of birds drawn by Peter Greenaway (who started his career as an artist) featured in the film, along with a theatrical trailer.

Feather at Night-From The Falls-Peter Greenaway 1980
Feather at Night-From The Falls-Peter Greenaway 1980

35 thoughts on “The Falls

  1. Love the artwork. I’ll have to watch the clip when I’m not on my phone. It sounds completely bizarre (not a surprise considering the previous clip you posted)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn it , Cake, I just watched the clip… now I want to watch the whole thing. it looks ridiculously farcically engaging. Plus 1980 a crossroads between styles, the end of the mod and the beginning of the new wave. I was a young teenager and remember those days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yesterday was a goose day for me. In the morning while driving along a country road to do readings at a local market, there was a handsome flock of geese on the left hand side of the road. I was forced to stop as the white gander stood in the middle of the road watching me warily. I had to toot the horn to get him to move. So I thought ..o.k. it’s going to be goose day.
    At the markets I stopped at a tarot deck stall and picked up a deck of American animal shamanic cards and shuffled to see which would come out. 1 card flew out and it was the snowgoose.
    When I got back home I turned on the t.v. and was surprised to see The Birds on which you mentioned in a recent post. I have never seen this movie on t.v. So I watched it a bit but I really could not come to terms with Tippi Hedron starting up the motor in a dinghy whilst wearing her mink coat and immaculately coiffed blonde beehive bun. I loved the early 60s? convertible Jag though.
    So you had better watch out Jimmy Fallon!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it was a Scorpio new moon day and no doubt added its own brand of ;potency to the readings. I thought later that where i could see the ripple effects of the pebble in the pond, I felt that unseen depths were also stirred.
        Scorpio’s waters are never shallow.

        Liked by 1 person

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