IF ALL myths were one myth? What if all fables were true?
What if our everyday lives repeatedly told tales of good and evil,
monsters and maidens? What if we failed to see this because we know
there’s no such thing? Hal Hartley’s film, No
Such Thing, tells the story of Beatrice, a young
journalist looking for her fiancé cameraman who went missing
on assignment. Through the magic eye of the camera and the poetic
parsing of dialogue, Beatrice’s search unveils the truth behind
our everyday busy lives. But what does she find?
The story is carried by the dialogue, which might have been lifted
out of news reports. The characters at first seem one-dimensional
or allegorical. But as the story unfolds they become lenses through
which we recognize deeper stories. Beatrice (Sarah Polley) is innocent
and naive, acting from the integrity of her heart. But she also
feels otherwordly. The Boss (Helen Mirren), is the Editor, intent
on fame through infamy or misfortune. Apparently a monster killed
the cameraman. Although there is no such thing, The Boss wants the
story covered just in case. Callous and calculating, everything
is reduced to the bottom line. Evil witch or modern opportunist,
take your pick.
Beatrice’s journey to find her lost fiancé is reminiscent
of Red Riding Hood. Her limp body pulled from the crash wreckage
is Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. When she willingly undergoes
surgery without anesthesia, she is Christ, Odin and the Bride of
Frankenstein in one. She miraculously recovers, and well-wishers
touch her like a Madonna figure. In some sense she is outside of
life, having miraculously survived, been rescued and recovered,
like Frankenstein’s monster. She wanders to the edge of the
world seeking her love, reminiscent of Orpheus descending to Hades
for Euridice. Her eventual pairing with the Monster is like Persephone
married to Hades, living in Hell for six months.
the Monster (Robert John Thurke) is the most ambiguous character.
He’s funny, irreverent and disdainful. He is Grendel, indestructible,
watching the sordid evolution of humanity, secretly jealous of their
capacity for transcendence and bent on their destruction. Living
in Iceland,the setting of Beowulf, the first known myth, he seems
an anachronism with his American accent. And of course when he and
Beatrice meet, it’s Beauty and the Beast. She, like he, has
nothing to fear, having faced death. And like him she is marginalized.
The media want to make her a miracle icon, but she is impervious
to their wiles. She doesn’t buy the Monster’s self-pity,
her naiveté having deepened to a fearlessness through her
ordeal. The journey to find her fiancé takes her to the ends
of the earth, like Dante’s journey through Hell.