(Writer’s Note: It is strongly recommended that you watch ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ before reading this! Unless you’re a bit naughty because the film isn’t in your ‘To Watch List’ you’ll just shrug your shoulders and think to yourself: ‘No Biggie’)
One pivotal scene in the film is when Harold Crick (played brilliantly by Will Ferrell) visits Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson in a role that probably made her ‘Emma Thompson’ in my eyes) to let her know that he’s read her book, and that it is beautiful. He surrenders completely and accepts his fate (death as is Eiffel is known to do with her main characters).
While rewatching the film, this scene just felt a bit more emotional to me, as I could imagine having a conversation with the ‘uber Christian’ version of myself and hearing: ‘um…so…are you really willing to let Him paint your masterpiece? Maybe not a choice to die, but to give up your creature comforts.’
The most difficult thing about being a Christ-Follower is being able to say: ‘Sure God…let me get right on that’ without seeing the masterpiece. You know it’s there but since you’re human — there’s that doubt creeping in that comes in the form of: ‘Wait…did you really ask me to do that? Are you sure?’
What I like best about the effect about this film, is it does make me think (particularly when I rewatch it). It is one of the films that Roger Egbert and I both like and I’m quite surprised that this doesn’t get used in ‘Church Movie Night’ more often.
“How rare, to find a pensive film about the responsibilities we have to art. If Karen Eiffel’s novel would be a masterpiece with Harold’s death, does he have a right to live? On the other hand, does she have the right to kill him for her work?”
As with life, there seemingly are situations that we feel like there are no options….there are no easy answers. The beauty of it is that as captains of our journey…we still get to have a say. Even how much our anxiety ridden mind has convinced us that we don’t.
Doug Barger put’s it slightly differently:
So the big question I can post to anyone (even someone who is not interested in exploring their faith) is: ‘What’s the masterpiece you’re painting?’ and could also be revised as: ‘Who’s masterpiece are you a part of?’. A songwriter might write a particular song because they were particularly inspired by a painting they saw and in turn inspired a film after the song is released.
Maybe there is an option that you have yet to explore (a project you have to say yes to…but are reluctant to because you don’t feel like it sounds like you)? Just like Anna’s first thought about Harold Crick (‘err….he’s not part of my masterpiece!’) during their first, second, and third encounters — and by being open, she was able to be around to hear that song.
Taking it further. Is it a masterpiece only when other people say it is so? Karen Eiffel changes her manuscript (which Jules Hilbert tells Harold that he has to die in order for the masterpiece to be complete —- well…not in those words) and lets Harold live. Does it make it less brilliant? A number of reviews have called this film a derivative of another, apparently a more watered down version which does a disservice to the story arc.
Well…this one makes me more likely to think deeply about my choices and life, particularly as a Christ-Follower. So even if you feel like your life hasn’t been the masterpiece that people around you were expecting, remember that people who would consider this ‘new version’ a masterpiece, might just be on their way to crossing paths with you.
Mini Bio: Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. Her recent frustration is finding engaging talks and looks forward to suggestions. Meanwhile she is thankful that Northpoint makes their messages available for public viewing.