THE INVENTION OF LYING exists in a world where the concept of lying has never materialised. Everyone thus speaks exactly what they are thinking all the time. Gervais invents lying. Gervais becomes powerful through his invention. Gervais accidentally creates a religion after lying to his dying mother. Gervais cannot bring himself to use lying as a means to attract women.
For this is a film written, starring and directed by a singular creative force, it thus bears a significant imprint of His personality. From the film’s very beginning (the opening credits), Ricky Gervais’ nasal voice is there criticising the production companies that appear on screen. The voice is the same as the film’s lead character, yet its source is never identified, left to float beyond narrative into the non-diegetic. Gervais thus plays Himself; His character, His own personality and His own creation of ‘The Man in the Sky’ (a perverse, quasi-holy trinity).
Not a hindrance. Through Gervais sacrificing so much of His self to the film He sets a considerable impression of His fears/His loves/His hates upon it. His comic commodity is represented in full, complete with exasperated eye rolling, that wonderfully chipped smile and His broken delivery of a drowning man.
His fears are exorcised in the film’s opening half hour. Gervais systematically works through the insecurities He possesses by allowing other characters (that He has created!) to insult/degrade Him in a manner that flirts between the extremities of Pathos and the discomfort of self-loathing. The insults are not limited to His on-screen persona and situation (no money/may lose job), but predominantly extend to His own appearance (fat/snubby-nosed/unattractive). That these are physical aspects, ones that transcend character and are inescapable aspects of Himself, allude to the personal nature of Gervais’ anxieties. Indeed, the main problem lying between Gervais and complete happiness (Hilary Swank) is His own imperfect genes – that He cannot escape His fat/snubby-nosed/unattractive children He will undoubtedly create in procreation. To exhibit these anxieties in such a public manner (through the medium of film, and before that television and stand-up) project a portrait of Gervais as an anxious man.
His loves are inherent in the style of THE INVENTION OF LYING. The film, in its direction, contains a certain level of immaturity (or rather, innocence). But this only adds to its charm, as though all that Gervais knows about filmmaking has been absorbed from the generic romantic comedies the film’s narrative spine is based on. The sickly sweet dialogue/the message that one needs to look past appearance and see that which lies within/the constant violins soaring at any hint of emotion/the functional editing = a fresh enthusiasm for cinema in the perspective of a simple story teller. An approach unabashed by the experience of practical or the weight of theory. This never seems to annoy, and instead comes off as a sweet and charming disarmament. However, the innocence projected coats the underlying theme of Atheism remarkably well. A masterstroke by Gervais if He wants to succeed in His beloved America.
Unfortunately, it is this very innocence that ceases THE INVENTION OF LYING from becoming a significantly Atheist text (a reading that should be bursting at its seams, but remains predominantly ignored). The love story narrative and hidden aesthetics prevent the spectator to ever walk away from this with a feeling of empowerment. Yes, this world belongs to You and yes, there will be nothing afterwards. No, there is no man in the sky. (Points all explicitly stated by Gervais’ character).