Stranger Than Fiction

Is a great flick. Why? Every great story has a movement, something which the elements of the story get caught up in and something which can capture the audience (however it may be constituted). It may be the classic three part dramatic arc, or someting of the snap-frozen variety that is now used to captivate dullards between adverts. A movie reviewer for The Age deftly reduces the plot of Stranger Than Fiction to what he believes is the ‘high concept’:

“What if the guy in a story found out, all of a sudden, that he was really just a guy in a story?”

Well, he is correct, this is where the film begins. However the movement in which we are haplessly caught up as the nail-biting audience is of something else. The central character of film Harold Crick (Ferrell) realises he is a character in a story, the movement for which we are caught up involves him (and us, along for the ride, so to speak) discovering what sense is to be made of the happenings of his life. The sense. The mystery lies betwen the state of affairs and bodies and mixtures of bodies that constitutes his to-ings and fro-ings and the narrative interventions of a voice that extracts a sense from these happenings for which Crick is not privvy. The film is an exploration in the event. The sense that Crick originally has to make of his life is whether it is a tragedy or a comedy. I can’t remember exactly the great line (attributed to Calvino) about tragedy being stories that lead to death and comedies about how to live life or something. …and OMG. Maggie Gyllenhaal is totally hot as baker and ‘revolutionary’ Ana Pascal. Totally. hawt. ::pant:: Anyway…

The climax builds as the film shifts gears to a question being worthy of the event. A question of ethics. The villian, funnily enough, is literature Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), perhaps the strangest villain ever, at least that I have come across in a long time. Because he tells Crick to give up in the sense of letting ‘fate’ take its course, presenting the only alternative as fighting fate, to, in other words, accept resignation. Instead, Crick wills the event. If ever a film has a explored (almost too ‘literally’, pun gloriously intended) the problematic at the heart of Deleuze’s ethics, then it is this film. It is a veritable cinematic essay of the problem of what it means to will the event. Everyone should read The Logic of Sense first and then see this film. Actually, as a public service, here is a taster:

To the extent that events are actualized in us, they wait for us and invite us in. They signal us: “My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it”‘ It is a question of attaining this will that the event creates in us; of becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us, the Operator; of producing surfaces and linings in which the event is reflected, finds itself incorporeal and manifests in us the neutral splendor which it posses in itself in impersonal and preindividual nature, beyond the general and the particular, the collective and the private. It is a question of becoming a citizen of the world. […]
Either ethics makes no sense at all, or this is what it means and has nothing else to say: not to be unworthy of what happens to us. To grasp whatever happens as unjust and unwarranted (it is always someone else’s fault) is, on the contrary, what renders our sores repugnant -veritable ressentiment, resentment of the event. There is no other ill will. What is really immoral is the use of moral notions like just or unjust, merit or fault. What does it mean then to will the event? Is it to accept war, wounds, and death when they occur? It is highly probable that resignation is only one more figure of ressentiment, since ressentiment has many figures. If willing the event is, primarily, to release its eternal truth, like the fire on which it is fed, this will would reach the point at which war is waged against war, the wound would be the living trace and the scar of all wounds, and death turned on itself would be willed against all deaths. We are faced with a volitional intuition and a transmutation. “To my inclination for death,” said Bousquet, “which was a failure of the will, I will substitute a longing for death which would be the apotheosis of the will.” From this inclination to this longing there is, in a certain respect, no change except a change of the will, a sort of leaping in place (saut sur place) of the whole body which exchanges its organic will for a spiritual will. It wills now not exactly what occurs, but something in that which occurs, something yet to come which would be consistent with what occurs, in accordance with the laws of an obscure, humorous conformity: the Event. It is in this sense that the Amor fati is one with the struggle of free men. My misfortune is present in all events, but also a splendor and brightness which dry up misfortune and which bring about that the event, once willed, is actualized on its most contracted point, on the cutting edge of an operation. All this is the effect of the static genesis and of the immaculate conception. The splendor and the magnificence of the event is sense.

Ooh, need to get going…