Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

In 2002 — just two years after his breakthrough, The Cell, hit theaters — director Tarsem Singh began production on The Fall. It’s a dark 1920s-set fable about a bond between a suicidal stuntman (a compassionate, but demonized, Lee Pace) and a young girl (Catinca Untau) for whom he spins fantastical stories that come to life.

Self-funding over several years, Singh piggybacked production onto commercial work around the world — filming at 26 locations across 18 countries. Only in 2008 did The Fall get any release, thanks only to the producing muscle of his visionary-director brothers Spike Jonze and David Fincher.

The Fall comes across like a Sir David Lean epic crossed with trippy Terry Gilliam-esque offshoots of tall tales of Zorro, Ali Baba and Pecos Bill rolled into one. Singh’s breathtakingly beautiful jaw-dropping images burn on your brain in a fierier variation on The Princess Bride and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Thematically, it’s a sun-kissed companion piece to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and certainly tells as humanistic a story. The power of the moving image receives a grand ode, and there’s profundity in meditations on the intersections of imagination, inspiration and innocence and the peril in losing any of them.

That’s embodied through Untau’s natural blend of curiosity, wonderment, practicality and sarcasm. Through the symbolism she and Pace provide, The Fall shows fiction can be an empowering agent to edit our own stories and choose our own adventures — much as Singh did in delivering the film.