Happiness Is a State of Mind

Back with an update but the same sensibility, Todd Solondz returns with Life During Wartime.

However distasteful (see Palindromes), Solondz's movies are genuinely philosophical (ditto). Appearing for the third time in a Solondz movie, the hyperrational computer nerd Mark Wiener functions in the filmmaker's oeuvre as the increasingly Asperger'd voice of experience. In Welcome to the Dollhouse, Mark advised his younger sister, Dawn, that high school would be better than junior high — not so, evidently. Palindromes is prefaced by a dedication that notes Dawn's suicide. There, Mark explains his philosophy that people cannot change their basic nature. Toward the end of Life During Wartime, Mark responds to Timmy's increasingly shrill attempt to puzzle out the nature of forgiveness. Can you forgive someone who punches you in the face? A terrorist? Hitler? Your father?

The film (with Dylan Riley Snyder and Allison Janney) dares you to laugh at shame and ­suffering.
Francisco Román
The film (with Dylan Riley Snyder and Allison Janney) dares you to laugh at shame and ­suffering.


Life During Wartime

Not rated.

Mark's logical conclusion is that the phrase "forgive and forget" is a meaningless contradiction. To forget a wrong is to nullify the act of forgiveness, and yet forgetting is ultimately the most absolute form of forgiving. Or, as the paradox-minded Franz Kafka put it, "The Messiah will arrive only when he is no longer needed."

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