The medium of film can be used to showcase compelling characters, captivating stories, and manipulate audience’s emotions towards certain themes. This is what makes film so interesting. Marc Forster’s “Stranger Than Fiction” is an example of this. He uses language and film techniques to manipulate the emotions of the audience towards the main theme of fate or freewill. Through narration, the first scene introduces us to Harold Crick and his story. This confirms that Harold is a protagonist in a story, being unknowingly a part a series of events.
A close-up of Harold’s wristwatch shows the theme of routine and duty. The watch is positioned on Harold’s bedside desk. The watch is placed on Harold’s bedside table. This close-up shows Harold’s routine-driven life and makes us feel more sympathetic to his character. Through an overhead shot, we see Harold perusing a magazine on maths and digital imagery, which shows his monotonous life. This shows Harold’s thinking and encourages viewers to be discouraged about his life of routines, numbers, fate, and routine. Harold finally reveals that he lives a lonely life. He would walk home by himself, eat alone, and go to bed at 11:13 every night. After her introduction, Harold audits her and finds out that she failed to pay taxes. The two characters are instantly portrayed as polar opposites. She is adamant about Harold’s treatment and shouts, “Taxman!” to show her disdain for government and hierarchy. Ana is a rebellious person who views tax differently than the amount that was spent on military. She says, “I didn’t steal from you; I just didn’t pay you completely.” Harold then asks Ana whether Ana is part of anarchist groups. Ana responds by asking Harold, “Anarchists have an organization?” Are they allowed to assemble? They could not assemble. Ana is made to look like Forster by her fun, friendly personality. The audience quickly comes to love her and she manipulates them to believe that free will is possible.
Forster introduces the symbols of fate, free will and experiment with them together. It is then that Harold, a man he has grown to love, makes a move for Ana. Ironically, Forster uses a romantic film cliche to describe Harold’s claim that he brought Ana flours. The clever play on words creates a wonderful moment between them, manipulating the audience into supporting the characters. Forster’s use, in particular, of silence in background, mid shots, two-person middle-shots, pairing angles, slow editing and mid-shots helps to make the scene feel intimate. Ana claims that there are rules against possible relationships. Harold replies that he “doesn’t care” and that he “doesn’t care”. Forster manipulates the audience with techniques and dialogues to get them to support the relationship. Forster eventually convinces the audience that fate and free will can be a good combination.
Forster presents fate and free will in the climax philosophically, instead of using symbolism to present them. He uses narration, editing, and cross-cutting to show Ana wake up, Karen writing Harold’s final fate, as Karen speaks of Harold’s last days. The suspense builds and the audience feels worried about Harold. In this scene, the watch motif that symbolises routine and duty returns through a quick close up. Harold uses it to shield him from the bus’s impact. The scene’s key moment is when the boy riding his bike falls on the street. Harold then sacrifices himself to save the boy and accepts his fate. Harold accepts the fate of Harold, but he instantly makes his own decision. This is how Forster shows us that Harold is saved by his watch and, more importantly, that fate and freewill work together.
The true magic of cinema lies in being able control audiences’ emotions towards characters, key themes, social issues and characters. Forster shows this skill in the sequences of ‘Stranger Than Fiction’. Forster has presented his brilliant and enlightening ideas on fate, free will, and the film shows how easy it is for an audience to manipulate their emotions. We are now fully aware of this and can readily accept it.