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Stranger Than Fiction Analysis
Transcript of Stranger Than Fiction Analysis
Harold Crick is first introduced to the viewer as a man of order. Slightly OCD, Harold brushes his teeth a certain amount of strokes a day, ties his tie a certain way, and wears a neatly pressed suit each day. Working as an IRS agent, Harold truly embodies the definition of organization and dedication. Interestingly, Harold’s most prominent feature is his watch. He times everything using his wrist watch, and the watch seems to possess greater powers. At the introduction of the film, the viewer doesn’t get a chance to relate to his character. He simply just seems like a man of order, someone who greatly values details and organization. After Harold discovers “the voice”, the viewer learns more details about his life. As well, after his original meeting with Ana Pascal, he begins to change. With his fear of death, Harold begins to become less concerned with petty details such as the number of brush strokes, and focusses more on his personal happiness. Harold begins to break free from his original routine, and begins doing things he has always wanted to (ex. Playing the guitar). Harold’s values shift, adding more compassion and love, and a more care free attitude. Harold chose to embrace his fate, and make the most of every opportunity he had in his present life.
Ana Pascal is introduced at the beginning of the movie as a tough, strong headed individual. She has no problem not conforming by avoiding to pay her taxes. She has a strong beliefs, and will stand by them whatever the cost may be. She runs her bakery herself (dropped out of Harvard to follow her passion), and works hard at her job. Regardless of the harsh way she first treats Harold, her soft side shines through when she is seen giving out free coffee and a cookie to a homeless man who frequents her shop. As the movie progresses, more of Ana’s free spirit is brought forward. Originally inferred from her tattoo, her fun and almost carefree attitude is shown as her and Harold begin to get close. While falling for Harold, her compassion grows and is seen especially from the scene where she specially bakes Harold cookies. Similar to Harold, her character does change from the beginning to end of the movie. Her values stay similar (ex. Avoiding the payment of her taxes), however, she does soften up and become less critical of society.
Colour, Lighting, Sound, Camera Techniques
Movie directors use sound, lighting and camera angles in order to create a mood for the film that contributes to the film’s meaning. In the film Stranger Then Fiction it is interesting that most of the scenes take place indoors: the psychiatrist’s office, the professor’s office, in Harold’s apartment, in the IRS office and in the bakery. By shooting the film primarily indoors contributes to Harold’s feeling of being confined in the walls of the story. Near the end of the film, even though Harold is in a hospital room, there is a striking view almost like he is in heaven and in a cloud of pure white and not confined anymore. In most of the rooms in the film they are characterized by their brightness, their bright whiteness, particularly Karen’s apartment and Harold’s IRS office; however, this brightness is contrasted by the muted colors in clothing and furniture. Only Anna’s environments are there powerful colors, which symbolize her enthusiasm for life. Anna has a bright red door at the bakery and stain glass windows in her apartment. The music in the film is simple and repetitive, like a single chord, and represents the thoughts and counting Harold does in his head. The animation that is projected rapidly in the screen further represents the rigidness of his personality. When Anna and Harold meet for the first time on the bus, the camera angles move around with the motion of the bus, to take away the seriousness of the scene and provide some comic relief. These techniques contribute to the theme that people cannot control their fate, but they can control how they react to it. While Harold lives in a precise world marked by the time on his watch, there are glimpses throughout the film that living a life spontaneously is possible.
Motif, Imagery, Symbolism
Throughout the entire movie, Harold is never without his wristwatch. Immediately the audience notices that Harold’s entire day, and ultimately his entire life up to this point, is divided up into timed intervals of going through the motions of life, however, not truly living. The exact routine in which Harold has scheduled for his day-to-day life is managed by his wristwatch, and does not allow for much, if any, variation from routine. As Harold begins to lose control over his once very disciplined and systematic life, it appears as if his wristwatch has actually developed a loyalty to Harold and continues to lookout for him. For example, the watch sets off an alarm and the watch’s face shows arrows pointing towards the window before the bulldozer smashes through his wall. This loyalty the watch has for Harold symbolizes the dependent and strong relationship that Harold had with his sense of control and security in his life.
Numbers and icons that pop up around Harold, symbolize his natural tendencies, of living systematically and having everything predetermined, that indeed come naturally to Harold. It appears as if nothing in Harold’s life is left up to fate.
“Little did he know”, is the phrase that changes Harold’s entire life. Ironically, by the narrator, Karen, simply saying this, Harold in fact learns that he is going to die soon. As the movie progresses, Harold begins to live more freely. His epiphany moment in the film occurs while Harold is brushing his teeth, and decides to stop counting brush strokes, the numbers around him that illustrate his counted brush strokes fall to the ground, symbolizing Harold’s breaking free.
As far as the audience knows, Harold’s life has been, for the most part, uneventful. The cookie that Anna makes for Harold, after she purposefully made his day of work agonizingly tedious, symbolizes the lack of happiness and memories in Harold’s past; and hints at the (true) start of his life. Once he learns that his death is near, and also meets Anna, Harold’s out look on how he lives his life evolves. This is illustrated by, Harold becoming less concerned with his professional appearance; accordingly, he begins to wear button up shirts without doing up the top two buttons. Spontaneity becomes a trait that Harold slowly acquires; for example, putting rules and caution aside, Harold buys Anna flours and brings them to her work to tell her he “wants her”. Certainly, there are many changes in Harold’s personality that illustrate his new found way of life.
Occasionally, there are scenes that cut to a boy receiving a bike as a gift from his father; and also a bus driver going through her daily routine. Initially these scenes seem out of place and irrelevant. However, while Karen is out walking on the sidewalk, a number of apples fall from their stand and one rolls into the street, this scene is when Karen discovers how she is going to kill Harold in her novel. The apple in the street foreshadows how Harold is going to die.
Harold knowingly faces his death, and steps in front of a bus to save a boy from being hit. At this time, the audience understands the significance of the boy and his bike and the bus driver; furthermore, this is the moment when all three lives cross for a significant moment for all of them. Nevertheless, Harold’s loyal wristwatch saves his life.
Plot Development , Point of View/Narrative, Mood,Tone, Setting
In the film, Stranger Than Fiction, the plot develops from the introduction of Harold’s life and mannerisms, to the struggle Harold has will his life being narrated by an author, to finally his acceptance of his fate and the realization of the importance of his death to the novel. The significance of the narrative structure is to demonstrate that Harold’s life is constantly driven by external demands rather than personal desires. Karen Eiffel, the author in the film, literally and figuratively dictates his life, not unlike his idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. With that being said, in the end, Harold comes about himself an makes decisions based on what he wants, but only to an extent because he still lets his fate be decided by external forces. At times, the mood of the film is depressing because Harold realizes that Karen is going to “kill” him, and this mood is portrayed especially well in the scene where the professor and Harold are in the office and outside the viewer can see that it is pouring rain, developing a somber tone. Conversely, some aspects of the film are genuinely cheery and uplifting. For example, in the scenes where Ana and Harold are falling in love the shots are bright, warm, and inviting; in addition, the more upbeat and gleeful music serves to set a jovial mood. The composition of shots can also significantly add to the tone and mood of the scene, for example, when Ana and Harold are in the bus, the scene is shot in funny and awkward angles to add effective, subtle humor to the scene. Along with the shots of the scene, the background of a shot can supplement the tone being portrayed. An example of this is when Harold was in the professor’s office and the room in entirely cluttered with books but the main focal point is still Harold because he stands out. The meaning of the film can be suggested by many different visual aspects along with the plot development and narrative. In Stranger Than Fiction, these elements add to the idea that although one may not be able to control their fate, they certainly can control the way they react.
People are unable to ultimately control their fate; however, they are able to control the way in which they respond to it.
Claire Cameron. Ailish Connors, Danielle Hart Lauren Hebert & Bailey Russel
Significant Lines and Theme
"Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank god for Bavarian sugar cookies."
"This is a story about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch. Harold Crick was a man of infinite numbers, endless calculations, and remarkably few words. And his wristwatch said even less."
"You have to die. Its a masterpiece"
"Easy. I'd go to space camp"
Love- How opposites attract within this movie. Harold's orderly life juxtaposes Ana's chaotic life; yet they balance each other out.
Fear- Harold's constant fear throughout the film about his imminent death, and his lack of control in the situation.
Fate- Harold's life is left up to fate, he can foresee his death, yet knows there's nothing he can do change his fate.
Pursuit of happiness- Throughout the film, Harold tries to pursue his own happiness, we discover after Harold learns to balance his life and accepts his fate, he finally has the ability to find true happiness.
Simplicity- Once Harold accepts his fate, he begins to value the little things in life, and indulges in the pleasure in life: Love, impulses and cookies.
Central theme- Fate
Throughout the film, we see Harold faced with the inability to control his fate. With the precisely set time of his wristwatch everything seems to be under Harold's immediate control and he is able to for see his future. Yet when only a few minutes are wrongly given to Harold to reset his wristwatch, his for seeable fate seems to falter. Harold quickly realizes that his life is now under higher control, and that he must begin to accept that his fate is uncontrollable. Only when Harold can accept that his future is left up to fate, he can find true happiness and freedom within his life.