Last night I went out with some friends to see this movie. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s essentially a vastly amusing thought experiment put together by Ricky Gervais. The premise: Imagine a world where humanity never evolved the ability to deceive. Not only are people incapable of telling a lie, but they can’t even lie by omission – they basically say whatever’s on their mind. There aren’t even white lies, told to save someone’s feelings. The truth is just brutal and honest. And everyone believes everything everyone else says, since they can’t even conceive of the idea of “false.”
Now, introduce Gervais’ character, Mark Bellison, a screenwriter for Lecture Films, a hit movie company that makes… lectures about history, since fiction doesn’t exist. Bellison is basically a loser on his way down to the bottom, when in a moment of desperation he suddenly develops the ability to lie. Astonished at his ability to say “things that aren’t…” – never finishing this phrase, since “true” is meaningless in this world – he attempts to demonstrate his ability to his friends, but they simply accept all the lies he says as true, no matter how ridiculous, because they can’t even begin to detect that they aren’t true.
Eventually, Bellison uses his newfound talent to get rich and famous, after making the first fictional screenplay in the history of mankind (which everyone believes without hesitation). But when his ailing mother is close to death, he rushes to the hospital, and out of the anguish of hearing his mother speak of the eternity of nothingness to come, he invents heaven. He forgets that he’s not alone with his mother, and the hospital staff overhears.