It’s so nice to get some good drama here on #WebSeriesWednesday, and I’m not referring to last week’s post review reactions. This week I was treated to some real meat and potatoes, a show that calls itself a love story and which is able to deliver upon the deeper complexities of what that word actually means.
Love is a word that gets thrown out a lot. Movies are described as love stories, people in relationships define themselves as ‘being in love,’ kids with crushes might call it love, you love your favorite movie, a father loves his child, and maybe, just maybe, you love it when I post a new article…
Clearly love is everywhere.
They sell it to you on dating websites, you buy proof of it on Valentine’s Day, yet love itself is free, and even still we spend countless time searching for it, seemingly reaching it but for a moment as it slips through our fingers, proof to some that it never existed in the first place.
But what is love? (Baby don’t hurt mee) Our first experience with the concept is often through fairy tales we see or read about as a child. As classic as a Greek tragedy they tend to follow a very specific formula, leaving the viewer awash in emotion. It’s no wonder that the major characters in ‘Last Fall of Ashes’ reference fairy tales more than once, it’s only natural to desire that happy ending we’ve seen play out over and over throughout our childhood. Yet the dictionary defines a ‘fairy tale’ as ‘an incredible misleading statement, account or belief.”
For some reason though we seem to define our expectations of love based on the parameters of fairy tales, that if he’s not a knight in shinning armor then perhaps it is not ‘true love,’ or if he wont walk through dragon’s fire to be with you then he isn’t worthy. And I’m not pinning these ideas on women, ‘Last Fall of Ashes’ is clearly written from a male perspective, but based upon a male fear of inadequacy.
For both Dane and Michael, competing love interests of the struggling Alina, that perfect life is the goal. Alina has her demons but she doesn’t need a knight in shinning armor, she is more than capable on her own, what she simply needs is someone.
The show is shown to us through the lens of these two competing love stories, one flashbacks to her time with Michael, and the other in the present day as she falls for Dane with the ever present watchful eye of Michael in the background.
What is most compelling to me here is the way the story turns the typical love story / fairy tale on it’s head. It would be easy to set Dane up as the knight in shinning armor, looking to rescue Alina from the heartbreak of the angry, vengeful ex-boyfriend Michael, and this is exactly how I expected it to play out, yet Michael makes all the right moves in this regard, while Dane seemingly makes all the wrong ones.
Dane has her at “hello” and her aggressive straightforward sexuality is enough to make him storm the castle on the spot. Meanwhile Michael learns the dirty details of the budding romance and when we all expect him to flat out beat the shit out of Dane, he befriends him instead.
When Dane tries too hard and things get rough Alina runs back to Michael, who drops her off at Dane’s doorstep.
When all is nearly lost and Alina is about to give up hope in Dane, and more importantly herself, it is Michael who is there for her. He’s been there the whole time, he believes in her, she deserves to be loved, he knows he blew it with her but reminds her that she still has a chance to realize everything they dreamed of with Dane. Though he would give everything to be with her again he doesn’t ask for her back, he wants her to be happy. It’s one of the most heart swelling, honest statements of love you will ever see put to film.
It is simultaneously a vote of confidence in the dream of the fairy tale yet something no hero would ever utter. The words are selfless, sacrificial, and weak. For the first time Alina hears not the words of the knight in shinning armor, but the words of the man truly full of love.
She is not persuaded.
Perhaps his confidence in her is undercut by his seeming lack of confidence in himself, or maybe his previous failings are too great. Or perhaps the story aims to point Alina as a woman who deep down wants that fairy tale life as well, she does smile and agree to quit her job after Dane offers, despite learning about his drug dealing. Maybe love to her was that physical, comfortable life. She did confess her love to him quite early on in the show, after all (simultaneously telling him not to respond, perhaps to keep the illusion of true love alive?).
When we use the word love to describe so many different things, when we cheapen it by illustrating it in terms of sexuality, status, or luxury and perceive the concept in our minds in a way that doesn’t really exist we lose sight of what real love actually is. We might even be so lucky as to find it, just as the main characters in ‘Last Fall of Ashes,’ only to think it inadequate.
This is the crux of the tragedy that is ‘Last Fall of Ashes.’ Love is a paradox, it is strength and weakness, anger and forgiveness, it is selfish and selfless … it’s not a need to stalk someone’s Facebook page, or a desire to avoid someone at all costs as some would have you believe – but rather it is the ability to let go of what you want to hold onto most.
I had a lot of notes on the technical side of the story but I’ve already written two pages on love – lol, so I’ll keep this short. The show has a distinct look, very contrasty imagery, very grainy. It’s not that far away from the look of Battlestar Galactica actually… strangely… and a lot of that comes out of the filmmaking style. Shot on a 7D with minimal lighting, the show was able to tell an amazing story with a fitting look that was essentially forced on them based on their production choices. This is a great example of a production crew cutting corners that can be cut in order to preserve more important ones. A+ for the thought process on this one.
I should also note that ‘Last Fall of Ashes’ was shot by Sarah Lipi, and a largely female crew. Love seeing women doing great work behind the camera.
You can find ‘Last Fall of Ashes’ on ‘Just The Story TV’ http://jts.tv/LastFall – It’s cheaper than Starbucks, but if that’s too much there is a 3 day free trial offer available.