Multiples of characters, multiples of plots, multiples of perspectives. Multitudes of books, multitudes of typewriters, multitudes of words. Multitudes of opinions. And multitudes of interpretations.
That is how I would describe the new movie The Words (would you believe it? I actually saw a movie the day after it came out). While most of my group seemed to enjoy it, my opinion is more complicated--of course. This is one of those movies that you aren't entirely sure what to expect from, and if you have learned exactly what to expect then the movie is essentially spoiled. So with that, I encourage you to watch it before reading on (or go ahead and read on if you're not planning on watching).
During the first act of the movie, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be thinking. I wasn't siding with the main character and I wasn't feeling good about his motives and choices--in many ways, I did come to feel he was supposed to be fictional. There's just something about the way he lives his life and is presented onscreen that falls flat--and I would rather take that as intentional fictionality than unintentional flatness.
Which brings us to how the movie ended. I can't quite decide what I thought of the ending. It felt like a poke at the audience: "ha, ha, you were busy for the last hour and a half trying to figure this movie out--but it doesn't really matter what's true or not because anything can be true or not." It seems a shame to invest so much in observing parallel plot-lines, only to have your progress checked. I suppose this ending wasn't entirely different to how Atonement ended--but that ending was simultaneous indulgence and awareness of the truth. This ending is about fictionality and its simultaneous connection and disconnection with reality. So the viewer invests time in the story, but when the movie is over, so is the story--you can't take all of it with you as baggage.
Naturally, I thought the scenes with Ben Barnes were the best; I still support him because he played Caspian in Narnia and because he showed himself a very capable actor in Dorian Gray. In this movie, too, I would say. An American accent, flawless French (only as far as I can tell), smiles, and plenty of tears. And these sections are also the period ones and the ones that lie deepest hidden. In a way, they make you think the most.
Absorbing and thinking are ultimately what this movie was about. I didn't come out terribly enthralled by it, but I suppose it wasn't bad for an hour and a half's diversion. No baggage then? No, it's fiction, just with reflections of reality (didn't you love how many mirrors were in this movie?).