Lying and creativity

Posted on October 23, 2009


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I am reviewing The Invention of Lying and then relating it to Creative Leadership.

**no spoilers**
The Invention of Lying is a simple movie about an alternate reality where no one is capable of not telling the truth. As a result, a culture based on pure honesty has resulted in a part eutopian society. It’s a mix between Gattica, Pleasantville, and Liar Liar. Everything looks normal on the outside but human interaction is shockingly direct, honest, and painful at times. There are multiple awkward conversations about appearances, prospects of sex, and opinions about people’s potential. The main character, played by Ricky Gervais (From the British Office), discovers the ability to lie. He soon realizes that this ability allows him to manipulate circumstances beyond what is humanly possible. I won’t go too far into it but you can imagine the ramifications. As humorous as this is, fortunately it evolves into something more and unexpected.

A key element that is not revealed in the trailer is that with the absence of lying, there is also the absence of storytelling. There is absolutely no fiction in this reality of any sort. No TV shows, no movies (at least in the traditional sense), no music, no art, and no religion,  As a result there is no imagination or the ability to envision a new future for yourself. Because there is no ‘lying’ there is NO CREATIVITY! Wow, what a concept. There is only the response to facts and physical data. A key point in the movie is the potential realization of creativity, God and religion to an otherwise truly atheistic society. I don’t want to spoil the discovery but it is definitely interesting concept to explore. The movie takes an existential twist that is unexpected and fascinating. It doesn’t remain there too long nor gets too heavy-handed but it does get you thinking- which what stuck with me much longer than momentary humor.

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Overall this movie suffers from a lack of director prowess. It lacked what the reality of characters also lacked; the ability to craft a creative story. However, 30 minutes of meandering into topics of imagination, Heaven, God, purpose, and existence actually made this enjoyable to me. They could have pushed it much farther rather making it a side storyline but I was glad to see it nevertheless. It redeemed it for me. I would still recommend it but encouraging the lowering of expectations. If you like Gervais than you will most likely enjoy this film.


It’s an interesting idea, how ‘lying’ is needed to be creative. This concept is also supported in Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers Are Liars’. The idea is that in order to be an effect storyteller, you have to craft a story that the audience connects with but is still true. So while it’s not real lying, it’s focusing on an aspect that helps the buyer make a decision. This book helped me delineate what is really a lie and what is a story. It was an extremely helpful book and it made me a more effective storyteller. Check it out.

If you would like to read my other reviews, check out BabbleOn 5