Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"The Fall" (2013)

Postmodern intellectualism has a real problem when it comes to art. It is always in danger of being taken in like the emperor shopping for a new outfit.

The key to success in these times is to be obtuse. Don’t ever have a message; don’t use your art to communicate an idea. Make your work so broad that the audience can make it say whatever they want to hear. If you do have a point, hide it as well as you can and never speak of it.

That is not to say postmodern artists never have anything good or true to offer, and I really like quite a few of them a lot. Artists like Eliot, Kubrick, and Bono spring readily to mind. All great skilled and talented men on their own; they are elevated by the audiences’ fear of being perceived as stupid. The thing that most elevates “2001: A Space Odyssey” to greatness is people are too scared to point out that it is basically naked. It may be beautiful to look at, but it has no idea what it wants to say.

Eliot was probably the forerunner of this postmodernity in art. He tossed a collage of ideas and quotes on a page and people were blown away. No matter what he intended to say with “The Hollow Men,” for example, everyone just takes it to mean whatever they want.

All of that brings me to “The Fall.” A police procedural in the serial killer subgenre, “The Fall” rises above its contemporaries on its obtuseness posing as brilliance. Is it about the fallen condition of humanity? Certainly. All crime shows are about the sinful tendencies of mankind; this one wallows in it. Is it based on Eliot’s poem? The killer quotes it, so it must be.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of “The Fall” is that it was made and succeeded. Our culture is in a place right now where we want stories about villains. We root for bad characters and we want good ones barely identifiable for all their brokenness. This show certainly fits the bill. The serial killer is a monster hiding in the form of a normal husband, father, and professional counselor. The detective is just as asocial and disconnected from the world around her, only she makes no effort to hide.

The show has been renewed for a second series, which is fortunate from one standpoint. This show is not a whodunit, but rather one of those tales where we know right from the start who the killer is and therefore we are merely watching to see how he will be caught. And at least on one point “The Fall” does mirror “The Hollow Men.” It ends, “not with a bang but a whimper.”

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