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Movie Mom

More (and Less) on ‘The Invention of Lying’

posted by Nell Minow

In Washington DC’s City Paper, Tricia Olszewski cites my fellow-Beliefnet blogger Michele McGinty (who has not seen the film) and me about the surprisingly lukewarm reaction to the anti-religious elements engendered by the Ricky Gervais film “The Invention of Lying.”
I believe the reason that there has been so little objection to the film is that the film is not anti-religion. On the contrary, the alternate universe of the film has no lies but it is also depressingly literal and concrete. There is no fiction, no compassion, no imagination, no faith, no abstraction. No kindness. No love. Marriages are based on genetic compatibility. And as a result, the lives of the characters are empty and without meaning. Even the fictional religion thought up by Gervais’ character to comfort his dying mother has enormous appeal because the citizens of this spiritually impoverished world sense that they need something more to believe in.

  • Alicia

    Hi, Nell. I think your take on this movie is very insightful – personally, I think religion (the need to believe, the need to have Gods) is innate, and without belief, we would all be impoverished.
    It also seems that societies that have tried to eliminate religion always end up bringing it in by the back door. Think of the cult of personality in Soviet era Russia.
    I plan to see “The Invention of Lying” this coming weekend. (And I’m still “working on” Michele to encourage her to see the movie.)

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Alicia! I have enjoyed your patient and thoughtful comments on Michele’s blog. I am very interested to hear your reaction to the movie!

  • Alicia

    I saw the movie on Saturday, Nell. It was a lot of fun and thought-provoking. For someone who is interested in religion or who has been to seminary, I thought the dialogue about “the Man in the Sky” was absolutely priceless.
    Far from being anti-religious, it suggested to me that a world without religion and belief would be a bit more bleak than a world with religion. The suicidal character, for instance, was still despairing, but not in quite as much of a hurry to kill himself, and that is a small improvement. Of course, I think Gervais was also saying “don’t wait for Heaven in order to be happy, or to be kind to others” which is a great message.
    It also showed the hollowness and mercenary nature of many man-woman relationships, which was very true to life, unfortunately. I don’t quite think it is a classic, but I definitely liked it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Alicia, thank you so much! That is exactly how I responded to the film, though you said it better.

  • Alicia

    Thanks, Nell!

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