“God has a Woman’s Voice”
Usually when you start hearing voices, even voices that just narrate your life, it’s not a good sign. That’s the dilemma in which Harold Crick finds himself in the movie Stranger Than Fiction. We always hold our breath when an actor known for their comedic roles decides to show their versatility by doing a dramatic turn. While there is nothing sadder than the tears of a clown, Will Farrell plays Harold Crick almost too straight and doesn’t get to do much with his character. However, in this cross between The Truman Show and Adaptation, what could have been a one-trick movie becomes a nicely layered, and easily watched, bit of pop confection.
“If you knew you were going to die, possibly soon, what would you do?” –Harold
Harold Crick, think Walter Mitty without the imagination, is a man trapped by the routine (and loneliness) of his life. He’s an IRS agent who is great at his job and loves it, counting the minutiae of his day (from tooth brush strokes to steps) while living by the dictates of his wristwatch. That is, until he starts to hear the voice of a woman narrating his life. The woman turns out to be reclusive novelist, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who is planning on killing her character creation, poor Harold, but hasn’t settled on how. Thus, our hero sets out on a journey, with the help from his guide, Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to find the Narrator of his life while figuring out what it means to truly live.
“I’m somehow involved in some sort of story, like I’m a character in my own life.” –Harold
Often we are so wrapped up in our own stories that we miss the opportunities of life. The interruption of other people, the significant and mundane moments that make up life. Sometimes we get a sense that we are caught up in some sort of narrative; maybe we connect with story because we’re a part of a grand story of God meeting us where we are–messy and broken–and wooing us back to him. God speaks into our precise and ordered lives, as the Author of the Story. Our spiritual journey is about becoming in tune with our (ultimate) story and the voice of our Narrator.
We want to know our Narrator.
Harold had tested the words of the narrator and found them true, thus bolstering his faith in the very existence of that narrator. He doesn’t know who, or what, this narrator is, but he trusts, because that narrator had been right about so much of his life already. Maybe, like Harold, having tested our Narrator, we want to find him and better understand who we are, who he is, and what he would have us do. Because our individual stories are connected.
“The only way to know what story you’re in is to figure out what stories you’re not in.” –Professor Hilbert
Questions will always help us on our journey, questions to uncover the truth about the Narrator. Like Job confronting God, we have questions that we’d always wanted to ask our Author, but we may not be able to. It helps to have guides, maybe scholars like Professor Hilbert, to help us better shape our questions or point us in the right directions. However, some questions will leave us crying in futility to the heavens, because we don’t like the answers, like when Harold asks “you’re asking me to knowingly face my Death?” our puzzled, yet hopeful seeker Harold asks. The answer is “yes;” life is lived in light of death. Ultimately, the questions and the answers come back to the Book, the Story of our faith.
“The hero dies, but the story lives on forever.” –Professor Hilbert
“A story about a man who’s unaware that he’s about to die. If he knows he’s going to die and chooses to die anyway, isn’t that the kind of man you want to keep alive?” Karen has to ask herself, unaware of how she sums up Christ’s own journey within his narrated story. Death imbues life with meaning and gives eternal consequences to our actions. When we understand the Story, we live in light of the Story, though maybe if we could see the whole story we’d finally, fully appreciate the Story and our place in it.
Harold: It’s not a story to me. It’s my life.
Hilbert: Absolutely. So live the one you’ve always wanted.
We all have our callings and talents that we can use to make the world a better place. From numbers to cooking, the most important thing is to keep your eyes open for opportunities to be a blessing to each other. To live life as you were meant to, fully human, where even the mundane and ordinary have meaning.
Stranger Than Fiction is a moral tale, almost a fable, about the interconnectivity of humanity, the inevitability of Death, and the passionate ties between Author, Character, and the Story. It’s a thought provoking film that could have been a great movie had it committed to its ending (thus touching on one of its themes with the artist’s responsibility to their art). Instead, it compromises by going for a “happy” ending and thus became merely a really good and intelligent movie. Yeah, we have way too many of those.
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