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Film: The Invention of Lying
Not The Film Poster

"Today I stumbled upon something that no man has ever stumbled upon before. They'll write about me in history books for generations to come. And yet, moments ago, it was unfathomable not only to myself but to mankind as a whole. It's hard to describe but it was as easy as... how do I explain this, I said something that wasn't!"

The Invention of Lying is a 2009 movie written, produced, directed, and starring Ricky Gervais. It takes place in a world that has no concept of fiction, philosophy, hypothesis or deceit. In a world of brutal honesty we find our protagonist, Mark Bellison, at the end of a particularly terrible day. When these events finally come to a close, he's lost his job, flat broke and facing certain eviction from his apartment. Then when all seems hopeless, he's struck by the finest Eureka Moment in recorded history. Mark becomes the first person to come up with the idea of intentional deception. Hilarity Ensues. At first.

The film depicts a world identical to our own, minus the ability to deceive or withhold the truth in any shape or form. This results in people being brutally honest and always saying exactly what they're thinking at a given time. The film initially deals with Mark utilizing his new talent for personal gain but then moves toward dealing with the more complex concepts of religion and love. The movie's take on "absolute truth" and the latter half of the story have proven very polarizing.


This film contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody / Deconstructive Parody: Manages to do both types of parodies to religion (particularly christianity). On one hand it presents region as a made up lie by Mark originally as a way to comfort his dying mother, then completely snowballing from there with Mark making it up as he goes. On the other hand it's presented as a good thing that gives people hope, even though its basis is a complete fabrication.
  • All Men Are Perverts: When Mark asks what they would do if they could do anything, the guys at the bar unanimously agree it's get women naked and have sex with them.
  • Alternate Universe
  • Beard of Sorrow: Mark grows one near the end of the film.
  • Blatant Lies: When nobody even knows what a lie is, you can get away with some outlandish stuff.
  • Brutal Honesty
  • The Cameo: Philip Seymour Hoffman (as a bartender), Christopher Guest (as an "actor"), Edward Norton (as a policeman), John Hodgman (as a "priest"), Jason Bateman as a doctor, Stephen Merchant as a rich homeowner, and a few others.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Everyone. It gets to the point where nobody has any imagination. The closest thing to a movie is some guy in a chair reading about history.
  • Cessation of Existence: Mark's Mom says "Death is a horrible thing... Few more hours like this and then an eternity of nothingness."
  • Crapsaccharine World
  • Darwinist Desire: Marriage is based only on the perceived genetic fitness of a potential mate. The romantic interest is struggling with picking between this trope and her love of the protagonist.
  • Deleted Scene: The DVD shows us the original opening with the cast as cave people. Cave!Mark tells the first lie, saying he slew a giant predator, which makes him popular with the ladies and he passes the ability to lie on to future generations. Then we see the world as it becomes if he doesn't lie, leading to the present as it appears in the film.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: An old folks' home is emblazoned with "A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People" while the church which appears late in the movie is "A Quiet Place to Think About the Man in the Sky".
  • Fanservice: Jennifer Garner cheerfully and innocently talking about masturbating.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: One of the more notorious examples in recent history. For the first half, it's the wacky hijinks of a man lying and everyone accepting it. Then Mark's mom dies and it becomes a serious deconstruction of religion, love and blind worship.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: From a man who learns to lie in a world of truth to a deconstruction of love and religion.
  • High Concept: Of a world where lying never came to be.
  • Hilarity Ensues: At least for the first half, see First Law of Tragicomedies and Halfway Plot Switch above.
  • Humans Are Bastards: In a world without lies or deceit, it seems a great many of us are in fact shallow, self-involved, Jerkasses who place physical looks over love and family.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Somehow, a world without deceit, lies, and in this case, religion, still wound up exactly the same in every other respect.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: The key difference in this world being the complete absence of lying.
  • Look Behind You: Used so Mark can cheat at roulette: "Look at that unusual thing! I've never... oh, it's gone now."
  • Messianic Archetype: The film has been called "Bruce Almighty for atheists." The Mark-Is-Jesus symbology could not be more explicit - walking around "healing" people, bringing religion to the world, even his hair and beard in the penultimate scene - without Mark actually getting crucified at the end. He doesn't. The symbol of the religion Mark founds is a crucifix-like portrayal of Mark-as-Moses, with his arms outstretched holding the pizza boxes that his commandments were written on.
  • Narrating the Present: In the manuscript Mark "finds" it mentions him finding it. Since it's in the manuscript it must be true, right?
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers highlighted the concept and some of the hijinks, while completely ignoring the religion-heavy dramatic second half.
  • Product Placement:
  • Politeness Judo: Used on Mark's father by the man he was burglarizing. When he told the homeowner there was nothing he could do, since he didn't know Mr. Bellison's name, the homeowner then asked "What's your name?" ...which he answered. At least he got a cup of tea out of it.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Mark is tempted but ultimately doesn't use his abilities to have sex with lots of women or even win over the women he loves for that matter. He's actually deeply ashamed he nearly abused his talent. Although abusing his talent for financial and social gain is well within his moral boundaries.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Think of what the world's first liar ultimately invents - religion.
    • It was more of an accident; he was only trying to comfort his dying mother by telling her there was life after death; someone else overheard him. The invention of religion was just a cover.
  • Running Gag: Mark being called a "snub-nosed fat man". However, the joke is so constant and mean-spirited that it turned off a lot of critics like Nathan Rabin, who reviewed it for "My Year of Flops". It's telling when the film was just barely considered a "Secret Success".
  • Self-Proclaimed Liar: Justified because no one in this world can wrap their heads around the concept of lying.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The main concept behind the plot; what would happen if a snub-nosed fat man with no friends or money learned to lie and deceive in a world of overly trustworthy beautiful people?
  • Take That:
    • Religion is made of lies! However, the intended message is muddied in Fridge Logic. Ricky Gervais is an atheist, which may explain some things...
    • A subtle one towards the entire film industry. In a world where movies are simply single shots of someone reading a script, the most famous and respected people in Hollywood are... the screenwriters.
  • Too Much Information: How the lack of lying is often portrayed. "Hi. I just finished masturbating."

Into The StormFilms of 2005 - 2009 Invictus

alternative title(s): The Invention Of Lying
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