The "non-fiction" story is the superior fiction
Review of Storytelling (2001) movie, by Stefan Stenudd
I was fascinated by Todd Solondz's Happiness, a spell-binding drama every minute of it — sometimes terribly naked. There are such tendencies also in Storytelling, but only in the second of the two independent parts.
Supernatural fiction by Stefan Stenudd
Caroline meets those who do not age, and this ability can be transmitted. But there are grisly downsides. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).
The first part, called "Fiction", is significantly shorter than part two, "Non-fiction". This is as it should be, but the best would be to exclude it completely. The story about emotional tension between a college girl with ambition to become a writer, her frustrated CP boyfriend and their impressive/monstrous teacher, the successful writer, is just as conventional as the stories the students write in the film. This may be intentional, to cause multiple layers of meta-effects, but it doesn't save this part of the movie from being pretty predictable and boring.
And the story ends before it should. A sort of coitus interruptus (if the term is allowed), which demands some kind of return or closing-up later on in the movie — but there is none. I got the strong impression that this part was only included to make the movie full-time.
The second story, "Non-fiction", is clearly stronger, and told with much more passion from the writer/director. Here, many facets are explored, the characters are complex, the drama intricate — and the tension builds, right below the drab suburban surface. It is impressive how elements common in just about any family life, here add to the suspense and the sense of doom. The thrill of trivial life, but not at all trivially portrayed.
This might be the reason for the title "Non-fiction", since the lives and fates shown in the story feel so real — contrary to what happens in "Fiction".
Still, this story, too, has been told insufficiently, as if abbreviated, or halted at points where it was about to erupt into infernal drama. Pity. Did Solondz retreat from his own vision? Did he censor himself to get more of a general audience?
I hope that it's not the case. His portrayal of human life, although unpleasant indeed, is fascinating and uniquely his. So he must be true to it.
6 January 2003
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both English and Swedish. I'm also an artist, a historian of ideas, and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.