TIFF 2013: ‘Paradise Falls’ an imaginative magical-realist coming-of-age tale


Paradise Falls

Written and directed by Fantavious Fritz

Canada, 2013

Director Fantavious Fritz, his name itself sounding straight out of a Wes Anderson tale, has crafted a magical story of adolescence following in the tradition of Huck Finn, yet told through the eyes of a young modernist filmmaker. Paradise Falls begins through a deep-voiced narration (provided by Alex Crowther) in deadpan inflections recalling the history and setting of the Paradise Falls suburban development, now abandoned and surrounded by death and curses. Two boys, Sonny Coburn (Alistair Ball) and Dirk Filmore (Uri Livene-Bar) form a relationship to conquer the community’s fears of the haunted air of the grand house, leading to series of the boys lazing about its many empty rooms, subsisting on frozen pizza. As boredom reaches a zenith and the boys run out of food, the spirits of the house become cognizant and anthropomorphized as Eleanor (Daiva Zalnieriunas), the daughter of Paradise Falls developer Danny Henderson. She teaches the boys how to better survive, how to better spend their time, and ultimately how to work with their newfound independence outside of the house as Sonny and Dirk become properly outfitted, in a quirky way, yes, for adulthood.

Fritz’s short, as several others have noted, puts its Andersonian, Kubrickian, and even Godardian influences right at the forefront. Deadpan humor pervades the narration as the boys casually hunt and cook house cats as well as transform the house into a jungle after having described its temperature as “tropical.” There are tracking shots casually exploring its architecture, yet only sparse moments of horror such as our following the boys on their bikes through its dark corridors — the film instead uses its ghostly presence as physical metaphor. The film as a whole is wayward, moving more in montage than episode, traveling from quirk to quirk as the boys traverse room to room, never quite letting us get to know the characters. Yet its vision and moments of wonder and fun, the jungle house, and the¬†Zabriskie Point¬†explosion manage to captivate and make us wish for more from the young Fritz.

The film ends on its title card in off-red Helvetica: Paradise Falls is a Tumblr-fandom aesthetic, its major moments of imagination outweighing its idiosyncratic faults.

– Zach Lewis

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