Stranger than Fiction

Spoiler warning: I might give details away below. Watch the movie first. It’s worth seeing. More than once.  (As always in movies, a couple of sensual scenes and some rough language exist.)

Once in a while, a movie will hit me in a deep and depressing way. Stranger than Fiction tells an interesting story with smart dialogue. Emma Thompson was also involved in Wit. She seems to be attracted to, or perhaps she brings, a smart literary sense to movies. I wish I were educated enough to catch all the symbolism of Stranger. I saw an apple several times, baptism (swimming pool), crucifixion (title of book), redemption, and a watch.  Harold Crick runs down a tunnel with the sign, “The way out.” Greek mythology and various story genres are discussed. Crick concludes he is in a tragedy, not a comedy.

Some major themes seemed to be:

  • Seizing life: Crick realizes his life is literally not worth a stack of pancakes and decides to change that. Kay’s life in many ways doesn’t seem better. Crick’s decisions in the end lead her to make a redemptive decision
  • Health: Crick seems to become more physically and mentally healthy as he changes his life. When we first see Kay, she appears god-like, yet she immediately acts sick.  Kay actually appears worse for having resolved how to kill Crick. She only appears to be better at the end, after choosing to accept an “OK” story instead of an excellent one, at the expense of her own fame.
  • Omniscience: much is made of “Little did he know…” being third person omniscient. While it felt overdone, I think the emphasis was on Crick’s ignorance versus the narrator’s omniscience. The irony is that the omniscient narrator has writer’s block and doesn’t know how to end Crick’s life!
  • Control: Crick proves unable to control his story’s plot by changing his actions. This prompts Dustin Hoffman’s character to explicitly tell Crick that he is not in control of his story. The author (Kay)  is omnipotent (over the story) yet suffers from  physical and mental weakness (sick, can’t stop smoking, writer’s block). 
  • Redemption: Crick chooses his death willingly. This prompts Kay to say that someone who chooses to give his life for others is someone whom we want to be alive.  Her description of Crick reminded me of Jesus. Jesus, of course, died for our eternal redemption. Kay seems to desire to redeem herself for all of her “killing.” So Kay sacrifices herself. She is an author yet she sacrifices her greatest story for Crick’s good.

So what was Ana Pascal’s role? Her initial actions and words belie her education and intelligence. She is unlike Harold in that she has found who and what she wants to be. She is unlike Kay in that she is happy and kind. She lives on purpose. She is mentally well, with the exception of falling in love with her tax auditor! Her name, Pascal, reminds me of Blaise Pascal, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. I don’t know; perhaps she is a foil to the flaws of both Harold and Kay.

The theme of a character struggling against the story reminds me somewhat of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Stranger Than Fiction is similar in that a character contemplates his powerlessness against his fate. Both movies are good but Stranger is richer and deeper and better. It sticks with you and gives you something to think about.

For some reason, the movie plunged me into depression for an evening. Perhaps just thinking about the meaning of life and wondering about the meaning of my own wore me out – I don’t know. I do know that in spite of myself I greatly enjoyed the film and will watch it again. Perhaps between now and then I will have figured out the meaning of life.

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1 comment so far

  1. The Anonymous on

    Yes, movies like these have the potential to change your life.. it’s a shame though, that potential is all it remains.


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