Years ago I took a college course on death and dying. It explored not only death of the body but also death of the soul. In fact we spent more time exploring the latter. The premise was that each and every one of our bodies must die someday and perhaps our minds or souls along with them, but we can keep ourselves fully alive psychologically until that day comes.
I just saw a movie that I take to be about psychological death and resurrection. It is Stranger Than Fiction. It features Will Farrell as an IRS auditor who lives his life and does his job with all the joie de vive of an obsessive-compulsive drone until he is shaken out of his numbing routine by hearing a voice out of nowhere narrating his drearily monotonous life like an author composing a story. In fact he discovers that he IS a character in a story still being written and who is about to meet his demise just as soon as the author (Emma Thompson) devises a clever way to kill him off. And because he has just crossed paths with a woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) he cannot stop thinking about and who gives him reason to live, he goes to visit a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) to find out who the author is so that he can persuade her to keep him alive.
I do not pretend to understand the deep meaning of this movie fantasy, if there is one. Just as my shallow brain has extreme difficulty understanding poetry, so I also struggle inordinately to decipher the abstract meanings of stories in books and films. I am stuck in their concrete details and befuddled when those details do not cohere. For instance how can a fictional character in a manuscript physically interact in the real world with real people including the author? It makes no literal sense. And yet I felt a depth of emotional involvement in this character's life and plight that I seldom feel when watching a movie. And I came away from the experience feeling quite moved emotionally and a little, if ineffably, wiser about life, death, love, art, and the potentially liberating effect of self-awareness.
I give this film an "A-" and heartily recommend it to anyone who reads this review.
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