Marc Forster’s Stranger than Fiction employs an intriguing screenplay and a diverse cast in order to explore the meaning and purpose of living life. In the film, IRS auditor Harold Crick lives a straightforward, strict routine type of life, all coordinated by Harold’s simple wrist watch. However, on one particular Wednesday, Harold’s watch malfunctions and needs to be reset. After asking a bystander for the time, Harold enters it into his watch not knowing that it is three minutes fast, which prompts the omniscient narrator in Harold’s head to state “little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death”. At this point in the film, Harold is finally forced to break from his daily routine, his mold, and venture out to save his life. In one especially noteworthy scene, Harold is invited into Ana Pascal’s home, which highlights one of his steps to fulfilling his life. Harold’s act of intimacy toward Ms. Pascal, and how he conducts himself during this scene, represents one of the many purposes and meanings of life. This scene can be looked at as an in depth version of the scene prior, which basically has the narrator explain how Harold is changing his life.
Through a visual montage of life fulfilling activities such as learning the guitar, which is particularly what Harold wanted to do, and other experiences such as daily social interaction, the narrator helps setup the next scene in which Harold displays something he never has, which is the urge of desire and want. The scene begins with a medium shot of Ms. Pascal locking up her bake shop for the night. The camera is housed inside the bake shop with the the viewer looking out of the windows while the camera tracks right following Ms. Pascal. This shot helps to reveal the bright colors of her shop, which comes in to play later on. The next series of shots consist of a medium long shot of Harold jogging over to approach Ms. Pascal, a quick cut back to a medium close up of Ms. Pascal, and then back to a medium shot of Harold stopping just in front of her. These quick cuts help transition into the following shot/ reverse shot sequence of Harold and Ana conversing. Aside from a few alternating close ups of Harold and Ana, this portion of the scene’s cinematography does not reveal to much information and connectivity to the theme.
The alternating close ups of each character suggests that these characters are getting closer in relation to one another and that there is a sense of romance forming, albeit an awkward one. There is also shallow depth of field that is noticeable during this scene, possibly under scoring the idea that Ana and Harold are only focusing on each other, nothing else, further contributing to the blossoming romance. Aside from these cinematographic elements, the lighting is a mise-en-scene element which contributes to the overall romantic feel that is growing. There is a natural key lighting emitting from her shop that illuminates mostly half their bodies, leaving the other side a bit darker, creating some contrast in the shot. Although this is not a overly romantic feel, the next part of the scene is a stark contrast, due to the interior lighting of Ms. Pascal’s house which helps create a more intense romantic feel. The scene then shifts to the interior of Ms. Pascal’s home, where Harold and Ana are sharing a meal together. It begins with an over the shoulder shot of Ms. Pascal, and then cuts to a wide shot of both of them sitting at the table laughing.
This wide shot reveals a parallel between settings: Ms. Pascal’s home is very homey and incorporates lots of primary colors such as red, blue, and green. This is paralleled with her bake shop, which also displays the same kind of colors. This mise-en-scene of the this scene can be contrasted to earlier scenes featuring Harold’s house and his overall appearance, which are mundane and overly simple. Harold is no longer wearing a beige colored sweater or v-neck, but now dons a red sweater with blue jeans, matching Ms. Pascal’s style. Harold’s change in attire can be seen as a visual representation of his life changing steps he has taken so far. Again, with this portion of the scene the lighting is an essential element that reinforces the romantic atmosphere. It creates a sort of glowing image, which more times than none is associated with romance scenes.
The final shot is a low angle shot that rises up to a high angle mid shot of Harold and Ana sleeping together in bed. As the narrator confirms, Harold has experienced both significant and mundane moments in his life, most of them being indistinguishable. But as the camera focuses on the two laying in bed, the narrator states that at this very moment, Ana Pascal was falling in love with him. For the first time, Harold has experienced one of the greatest meanings and purposes of life, which is the experience of love and compassion for another person. This scene is of importance because this prompts Harold to later discover who the narrator actually is and ventures out to track her down. Without this scene, Harold’s efforts to track down the narrator may have been blown; Harold knows at this point he has something to live for.