A quiet archivist in the Latvian capital of Riga investigates an apparent suicide in the moody, black-and-white mystery “Fallen.” Deceptively simple and defiantly slow, pic will infuriate some auds and mesmerize others. Though theatrical prospects are marginal at best, pic reps a daring choice for bold fest programmers and could pic up tube sales.
While walking home from work one night, archivist Matiss Zelcs (Egons Dombrovskis) passes a woman on a bridge. A few moments later, he hears a splash and some brief screams. He returns to investigate but finds nothing.
After Matiss summons the police, a cynical and chatty detective (Vigo Roga) arrives and lectures him on the high local suicide rate and the general bleakness of society.
Soon, however, a helpful barman (Gundars Silakaktins) produces the woman’s purse, which yields some photographs and a name: Alina (Aija Dzerve). Matiss also finds some unfinished love letters in a trash can, which eventually lead him to Alexei Mesetzkis (Nikolai Korobov), who’s in some of the photos but isn’t Alina’s husband.
Since making his first film “Fate” in 1994, Kelemen has been identified with angst-ridden German doom-and-gloom. While there are certainly elements of that in the long takes and grungy black-and-white of “Fallen” — and these are favored weapons in Kelemen’s modest arsenal — pic also respects and satisfactorily revives the time-honored film noir tradition of a loner on a Quixotic quest for a truth for which he’s entirely unprepared.
In more conventional hands pic could have become more, well, conventional. Tolerant auds may respond to the tension between the story and the style, while others will flee the theater.
Tech credits are willfully spare, highlighted by the deft steadicam work of Kaspars Brakis and Valdis Celmins. In a unanimous jury vote, pic won the FIPRESCI prize at April Euro film fest in Lecce, Italy.