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What If It Were True
   
by Linda Tiessen Wiebe

No Such ThingWHAT 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.

monsterIronically 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.

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