The Invention of Lying

After playing a spirited game of “Settlers of Catan” with the children last night, I sat down late in the evening with my other half and said “shall we watch a movie?”. We rarely sit and watch movies together at home - either the children are wandering in and out of the room, we are running around town fetching and delivering them from clubs, we are doing chores, or we are too tired to even bother.

I skimmed through the movies listed on Amazon Prime, and picked “The Invention of Lying” - the Ricky Gervais comedy. I had heard of it when it came out at the cinema, but never got around to watching it. I suppose for most people it’s “old news” now, but for us it was new.

Here’s the trailer :

I thought the idea behind the movie was wonderful - and we laughed out loud during the first half. If you’ve not seen it, the protagonist lives in a world where nobody lies about anything - the entire concept has never occurred to anybody. The lack of any kind of deceit leads to some brutally frank, and often hilariously cringeworthy conversations - I won’t ruin them for you if you haven’t seen it.

I second guessed where the movie would go pretty quickly after the idea of lying was discovered - but found myself frustrated that it never really got into the more interesting conversations around iconography, faith, belief, and free will. Don’t get me wrong - there were some wonderful moments - like the realisation that first impressions are often wrong, or the spur-of-the-moment invention of a heaven to help somebody deal with death. I just feel the movie could have done a lot more with the ideas it touched on - it could have confronted the audience with far more home truths.

After the movie finished I looked at reviews of the movie online, and found a predictable tidle-wave of negative reviews from church websites - which is only natural, given that the central character of the movie invents a “man in the sky that nobody can see that decides if you go to a wonderful place, or the worst imaginable place when you die”. I guess exposing a pragmatic, logical description of the faiths that something like 80% of the world follow as an invented fallacy was always going to cause trouble among the more forthright, soap-box wielding brigade.

I noticed something else while looking at the reviews - while the critics hated the movie, the audience liked it. I found myself wondering if the normal cinema going audience is far more open minded and self deprecating than many self-ordained authority figures would like them to be.