In the movie Stranger than Fiction, Harold Crick is a man who loves numbers and just happens to one day start hearing the narration of his daily life in his head. This is strange enough without the fact that one day this narrator alludes to his death. This, of course, sends Harold into a tailspin trying to prevent his death and in the process, he learns that his narrator is the famous Karen Eiffel: an author known for killing off her main characters.
Obviously, this metafiction is meta due to the fact that the audience is watching a movie about an author telling a story that the subject of the story hears and responds. But the problem of the film comes when there is a conflict between Harold’s life and death. It’s not as simple as Karen deciding not to kill him. He dies in her story to save another life.
Anaya M. Baker in her article on Metafiction or the Self-Conscious Narrative posits “Metafiction often uses traditional oral storytelling technique, in which the teller embodies the specific role of narrator, and is awarded certain liberties, for example commenting upon the tale or changing it to suit the intended purpose or audience.” This take on narration gives a strange perception of the film. There are technically two narrators here: Karen Eiffel and the author of the script. So, we have to look at what both Karen and the writer are trying to say to the audience. Again, there’s a duality in the audiences. Karen’s audience and the film’s audience have to be accounted for.
Something else to look at here is the introspective aspect of this metafiction. Harold is confronted with his quirks like counting and being anti-social. With Eiffel revealing his every inner conflict, he is forced to look at the parts of himself that he doesn’t like. He also gains a perspective of the life he wants to live which makes it even more difficult when he realizes that he is going to die.
What differs in a metafiction, and what we didn’t see in Serial, is an endless chance for opportunities. In Stranger than Fiction, we are given a new realm of possibility. This makes the meaning of the story a little bit harder to decipher. Dealing with a reality that caters to the idea that a man’s life can be controlled by an author that lives in the same “dimension” doesn’t allow for a full connection to a world that doesn’t adhere to the same possibilities. This also goes for Supernatural, but I will expand on that in my final post.
But my point is that we can’t expect to find a meaning that applies to our world’s framework if the same rules don’t apply in the framework of the story.
However, I do have a pretty good idea of what Stranger Than Fiction was aiming to teach it’s audience. With communication between the author and the character, we can finally see the bigger picture outside the confines of our own knowledge. We don’t know what is going to happen five minutes from now, but we finally have an omniscient author communicating with her character and consequently, his future is revealed. It causes the audience to question whether they would want to know their future and if they did would they actually do anything to change it? These are tough questions that most stories don’t or can’t address.
I came across an essay by Philip E. Bennett discussing Dits. What’s Dits you ask? Well let me be honest and tell you that I am not 100% sure, but from what I gather, it’s an ancient piece of French literature that can easily be compared to Stranger Than Fiction. Bennett analyzes the narrative structure of the work and mentions that “given the arbitrary and random nature of the elements of external reality, what value can be placed on the ordering of such elements by a remembering, ordering, and creating intellect within a head which tries to reduce to its own dimensions the infinite universe of God’s creation?”
Basically, what makes us think that we can reorganize the order of the universe in our imaginations? Or write a book in which the novel and the author have a conversation? The structure of the story within the story is fully dependent on the narrator’s prerogative and their story is fully dependent on the author. So, when the two roles are intertwined, the audience is forced to decipher their own role in the narrative.
I think that the meaning behind Stranger Than Fiction’s framework is that it allows for the audience to evaluate their own lives and how much it’s worth to them.