Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

There is always a way to be honest without being brutal. ~Arthur Dobrin

I don’t write about movies very often – they’re just not that interesting to write about, quite frankly.

However, I watched one last night that I thought had some pretty interesting, and insulting, messages that deserve some attention.

First off, I dig Indie and Independent films. (Not saying that this film was an Indie/Independent, but I like movies that are a bit off the radar, so to speak). They’re not all hits, but there are more hits than you might think. Blockbusters are usually pretty standard: love triangle, saving the world, lots of explosions, someone dies … blahblahblah, but Indie/Independent films delve a little more into character and circumstances than on blowing things up. Which is probably why I enjoy them.

Anyway, the movie I watched last night was: The Invention of Lying

It’s a world where everyone tells the truth – and just about anything they’re thinking. Mark Bellison is a screenwriter, about to be fired. He’s short and chunky with a flat nose – a genetic pool that means he won’t get to first base with Anna, the woman he loves. At a bank, on the spur of the moment he blurts out a fib, with eye-popping results. Then, when his mother’s on her deathbed, frightened of the eternal void awaiting her, Mark invents fiction. The hospital staff overhear his description of Heaven, believe every word, and tell others. Soon Mark is a prophet, his first inventive screenplay makes him rich, and he’s basically a good guy. But will that be enough for Anna?

There were three underlining themes in the movie:

1. Telling the truth, though admirable and forthright, is depressing.

2. Don’t believe everything you hear or are told.

3. People need to believe in something.

Telling the truth, though admirable and forthright, is depressing

This movie is all about telling the truth – no one is capable of telling a lie – even a white lie. Everything everyone feels, or is thinking, is all on the table, the good and the bad. The people of this world are physically incapable of telling a lie. Though there are some pretty funny moments in the film as a result of people not being able to lie and just blurt what’s on their mind, regardless of the situation or if it’s even appropriate at the time, a lot of times, these revelations are brash, crude, rude and make you squirm in your chair with discomfort. People are unknowingly cruel to one another with their honesty and this produces a lot of unhappy and depressed people.

In fact, a lot of people don’t even exercise self-control, they just blurt out what they’re thinking/feeling whenever it happens. For example, Mark is out to dinner with Anna and their waiter looks at Anna, then looks at Mark, and boldly says, “She’s out of your league.” Another example is when Anna accepts a call from her mother, while at the dinner table, and tells her that she’s not physically attracted to Mark and that there is no way she would consider sleeping with him.

People have to endure a lot of rejection in this movie. Which , in some ways, is good because there are no false illusions, there are no misunderstandings, and some people just don’t get it unless you’re open and honest with them about a given situation, but to constantly be told that you’re ugly, or fat, or stupid wears on a person’s self-esteem and after a while, people lose hope.

Which brings me to my second theme …

Don’t believe everything you hear or are told

The people in this world do not have hope. They don’t understand how comforting it is to hope in something, to believe that things will get better, to anticipate the unknown and to appreciate the magic of fate. Everything is cut and dried, out in the open and there are very few surprises in this world.

And because faith is based on hope, and because so much faith is based on the unknown, the people in this world do not have any religious beliefs because no one can say, with certainty, that it exists. No one can declare that they know God, have met God, or that He even exists. So … there is nothing to anticipate. There is nothing to look forward to. There is nothing to comfort them when they get scared or lonely.

When Mark’s mother is on the verge of dying, she starts to panic. She doesn’t want to cross the threshold into nothingness. It’s bleak and depressing and the thought causes her to hyperventilate and become quite distressed. Since Mark has stumbled onto lying, he is now capable of telling his mother a lie in order to comfort her as she’s dying. He tells her about Heaven, making it up as he goes along and that soothes her. She calms down and she dies in peace. Though Mark feels bad about lying to his mother, it also makes him feel good that he was able to give her that peace.

It was a lie of love.

However, the doctor and nurses overhear his description of this wondrous place and suddenly, they have hope – hope for something more after they die. They get so excited about this new “truth” that they spread the word. The entire town camps out in Mark’s front lawn, TV crews are set up and before long the entire world is waiting with bated breath to hear more about this Heaven that Mark speaks of.

Feeling the pressure of maintaining his lie and also enjoying the attention, Mark stays up all night trying to think of how he can explain Heaven to everyone. He comes up with “commandments” that he writes out and pastes on the back of two pizza boxes (imitating Moses’ Ten Commandments) and he comes out the next morning and delivers these commandments to the people. Only, the people have many questions and before long, Mark is frustrated and is making up the details as he goes along. The details are loosely based on the Ten Commandments as well.

He talks about “the man in the sky” and how the man in the sky is a puppet master and is responsible for everything that happens on Earth and to people. He pulls the strings and people jump and dance to his every whim.

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

My blood pressure spiked at this point and I nearly stopped watching. They were clearly poking fun at Christianity and I didn’t think it was funny. In essence, Hollywood was saying that Christianity was made up by a man and people who believed the “stories” were clearly naive and stupid.

How could any rational person believe in God and everything related to God? Hollywood is asking. But then again, I took it with a grain of salt because after all, Hollywood is fully of Godless wimps so … there you go.

But it was interesting in that people were so HUNGRY to believe what Mark was telling them. They CRAVED the knowledge that when they died, it wasn’t over, but was just beginning. They were DESPERATE to believe in something they didn’t fully understand because it gave them hope and offered them comfort.

That, my friends, is the very essence of religion nowadays and in the real world. There are so many people, SO MANY PEOPLE, who are desperate to know God. They are desperate to find the peace they are consciously, or subconsciously seeking. And it was this depiction that kept me watching the movie.

It was both sad and fascinating at the same time. It made me incredibly sad that there are so many people out there that are seeking God’s truth. And so many people out there that refuse to believe something so wonderful even when they know, deep in their hearts, that it’s the truth – that it makes sense. That there is scientific evidence backing it up.

It was also fascinating to watch how gullible people were. They believed everything that Mark said because they were convinced he was telling the truth. They believed him because they WANTED to believe him. Even though there was no physical proof of his claims, it didn’t matter – they found hope. What they heard comforted them and they WANTED to believe him.

THAT is faith.

It was also a good lesson, as well. That just because someone says something, or claims that something is true, it’s okay, even NECESSARY to ask questions. Seeking truth or knowledge is never a bad thing and in fact preferred. Simply taking the word of one man, a group or even a government, is dangerous and foolhardy. Ask questions – find out for yourself if something is true or not. NEVER take something you hear, read or are told at face value, at least, when it comes to something as important as faith.

It was alarming to watch so many people blindly take what Mark said as gospel truth. It was a perfect parallel to today’s world and how easy it is to manipulate people into thinking a certain way. How many people actually stop to question whether what they’re being told is real, or makes sense, or is morally correct?

Exactly. It’s scary.

People need to believe in something

And that, in essence, is the message behind the movie. Well, that and telling white lies is not always a bad thing if it protects people.

But people NEED something to believe in. They need direction, they need to know that there is so much more than this mortal life.

Another aspect of this I found interesting was after everyone heard about Mark’s version of Heaven and found out that everyone would receive a mansion and they would live happily ever after and be surrounded by their friends and family, they gave up on real life. The attitude was, “I’m going to get my mansion and live like a King in Heaven so why should I exert myself now? Why should I be a good person now (as long as I don’t break the commandments – which in Mark’s version there were only three) if I’m going to go to Heaven anyway?”

Sadly, that is the same attitude a lot of Christians have nowadays. Christians don’t value life as much as they should because the afterlife is going to be so much better than what we have now. That was NEVER God’s intention. Yes. Paradise will be wonderful (notice I didn’t say Heaven – Christians will never see Heaven – we will reclaim Earth after Christ comes back and defeats evil, then we shall live in Paradise on Earth, not in the sky), but it’s no excuse not to be the best Christian that God could want for us while we live in our mortal bodies.

You see this attitude in the movie; you see this attitude in modern-day Christianity, too. So even after everyone believes in Heaven, they are disillusioned into believing that human life is somehow less valuable. (For example: there was one suicidal guy in the movie who wasn’t interested in committing suicide anymore after he learned about Mark’s Heaven. His new goal was to lay around and watch TV and drink beer all day thereby slowing killing himself with drink and enjoying the journey until it happened).

Even though this movie was mediocre at best and in fact, pretty much ticked me off, there were a lot of interesting messages – messages that I don’t think even Hollywood intended but need to be pointed out and discussed, especially in today’s world.

Rating: C

The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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