Stranger Than Fiction is another original yet broadly appealing movie to add to Kaufman’s list of Impeccable Cinematographic Creations. This is one movie where two distinctly different themes, Comedy and Tragedy, are intelligently mangled with, occasionally even bordering on the lines of melding with each other.
The movie, briefly put, scripts the life of its protagonist- Harold Crick, a Chicago IRS auditor whose world comprises of nothing but facts and figures. He epitomizes every characteristic a person is required to possess for society to label them a drone. From the eerie extent of obsessing over the proscribed number of toothbrush strokes each session must receive, to his genius ability to mentally solve large multiplication problems, this fastidious male is unknowingly, in a skewed yet extraordinary manner, the perfect lead character for a story book.
The realization that the British voice narrating the movie was intended for not only the audience, but in fact specifically at Harold also, appalls many. This interesting use of an omniscient narrator draws in audience related themes such as Determinism and Fate and more blatantly surfaces the existence of yet another character- Karen Eiffel.
Harbouring a Sylvia Plath sort of disposition, this chain smoking recluse of an author is adamant to find the appropriate closure for the main character of her latest downbeat novel, who happens to be none other than Harold Crick. However, the plot gradually reaches its climax when Karen, so desperately trying to find inspiration for a tragic ending, is put in contrast with Harold, who is urgently trying to pinpoint the problem with the perceived “hallucinations” or “voices in his head”. With the wisdom and advice of literary professor Jules Hilbert, he eventually understands the book he is living in and most vitally, the possible ends he would eventually have to face.
Determinism is greatly exemplified here, where any possibility of free will Harold originally had the right to was ruled invalid and denied. Most pertinent to him, of course, was the fact that death was inevitable and there was no other alternative but it. Hhis fate was controlled by the antecedent script of the book. This prevailing theme brings the film to an entirely deeper level, much different from the regular bland, brainless on-screen entertainment we are usually provided with these days.
Harold’s contiguous brush with death allowed his character to concentrate on the emotional essentials of life, as opposed to the usual mundane and routine aspects he previously focused on. Like any other movie, romance is a necessity and topping this one of with tasteful humor and a tinge of predictability, Harold falls in love with an alterative bohemian baker whom he was delegated to audit. She fits comfortably in the category of a political non-conformist who refuses to pay the income taxes she deems objectionable. Moreover, she finds Harold Crick the root cause of the wrong in America, which makes their growing love for each other an uncanny yet amusing watch.
The cerebral notion of suspense the movie entails is what keeps any viewer’s eyes glued to the screen. Kaufman’s design of Stranger Than Fiction never once provides a moment in time where questions about the plot stop popping up in one’s mind despite the many hints apparent throughout the film. With the assistance of a respectable supporting cast, this movie does not steer off tangent from start to finish. Regardless of the somewhat abrupt ending, Stranger Than Fiction is in a odd and eccentric way a must-watch and by far one of Kaufman’s greatest portrayal of clever cinematography.