Recently I watched this movie: the invention of lying. It’s a 2009 release, starring Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais, where they try to show how lying started. My small sister had me watching it after telling me she always wanted to watch that movie and even though I found it slow at first, I got curious…
In the movie, people live in an alternate reality, where no one knows what lying is. As a result, they are brutally honest, always hurting each other’s feelings; because truth is, as much as we condemn lying, those little white lies help a great deal.
Ricky Gervais’ character, Mark, had just lost his job and had been kicked out by his landlord. Frustrated, he decides to go close his bank out. When he gets to the counter the teller tells him the computers are down; so she asks him how much money he has in his account. Then, a reaction in his brain causes him to lie. Instead of saying he has $300 in his account, he says $800; the money he owes his landlord.
Right then, the computer comes back online and the teller finds out he has $300; but since no one knows what lying is, she believes him, assuming the computer made an error and she goes ahead to give him $800. That becomes the world’s first lie. Amazed at being able to say something that is not true, he goes to a bar and tells his friends about it.
After that first lie, he tells more lies, after realizing that sometimes lying is good because it prevents people from getting hurt, especially when the truths are really bitter and difficult to handle. He prevents his friend from getting arrested for drunk driving by lying to the traffic police that he is not really drunk, and prevents his frustrated neighbour from committing suicide.
Excited about his new discovery-lying-he calls up Anna; a beautiful, wealthy woman he wanted to go out with, but who didn’t like him as much because of his bad financial status and his physical appearance.
Later, Mark gets a call that his mom has suffered a heart attack. He goes to hospital and finds out his mom is dying and is really afraid to die because she is scared of ending up in nothingness. Compassionately, he tells her not to be afraid because she will be happy where she is going. He introduces the concept of afterlife and heaven.
Soon after, his mom dies and the doctors, who were listening in the entire time he was talking to his mom marvel at the whole concept of afterlife. The whole world gets to learn of his new discovery and people camp outside his house so he can tell them more about life after death.
Obviously he knew he had lied to his mother so she could pass on peacefully, but Anna asks how his mom felt after knowing she would be happy where she was going and how he personally felt when he helped his mom die in peace. He says he felt good in both instances. She asks him to imagine how he would feel helping the whole world if he told them all he knows.
Giving in to the pressure, he sits down to write what he would tell the world; which eagerly waits to hear his revelations. Eventually he steps outside with the ‘ten rules’ written on pizza boxes. Here I get the impression he is mimicking Moses, when he received the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai.
He goes on to read the rules, which he claims have been given to him by the ‘man in the sky’. Mark tells the people gathered outside his house that when they die they will go to a happy place where they will all live in mansions and eat ice cream, but that will be if they don’t do bad things.
They ask if the man in the sky is the one who causes cancer and accidents, to which he says yes. Enraged, they say they should get rid of the bastard in the sky before he causes them more harm. Mark quickly adds that the man in the sky also brings the good things too. In response they ask, “So the man in the sky is sought of a good guy and a bad guy?”
Mark shrugs and says yes. He tells them that the man in the sky rewards them for all the bad things they’ve gone through here on earth when they die.
After that revelation, there are numerous headlines in newspapers: man in the sky continues to kill babies with AIDS; man in the sky helps woman live for 104 years; man in the sky kills 40,000 people in tsunami.
Mark subsequently finds himself questioning the same things he told the people; for instance asking Anna not to sleep with someone she is not married to, then realizing she was going to give him a gift voucher for sex with her for his birthday. He feels befuddled when he realizes he just missed a golden opportunity to sleep with her.
When relaxing with his neighbour, who wanted to commit suicide, he asks if he is happy since the discovery of the man in the sky and if he’s found love, but he says he is just taking things easy because he knows he will eventually live happily when he dies.
From what I understood, the neighbour indirectly says, there is no need for one to struggle to be happy on earth because all that will be given on a silver platter when they die…