When I was studying film back in college, Todd Solandz was the big deal director my peers and I were obsessed with. His incredibly perverse, yet tragically sympathetic film Happiness was my absolute obsession at that time. I was drawn to the way he could make terrible people somewhat relatable, forcing you to think about your own humanity as a result. In 2001, during my final year at UCSD, Solandz released Storytelling -- a film that was not nearly as well-received as his first two, but to me was his most important and thought-provoking. The film is divided into two halves: Fiction -- a short piece focusing on a literature student who writes a fictional story about a real event; and Non-Fiction -- a longer film about a documentary filmmaker who ends up straying from objectivity. The ultimate takeaway from Storytelling is the irony that fiction is often based on truth, while an attempt at a non-fictional narative can take all kinds of subjective strays.
Nothing that Solandz presents in any of his films is ever spelled out for the viewer; you have to form your own conclusions about what he's showing you. I'll never forget some of the conversations that spewed out of the media center after watching one of his movies. Some people were repulsed, others enthralled, and many just plain bewildered. That was the excitement, however; that someone could present something bold and daring that could be interpreted a number of different ways. Solandz never wanted to force anything down your throat; his films were conversation starters, destined for heated arguments and dastardly disagreements. I must have watched Welcome to the Dollhouse fifty times during those years; each viewing with a different group of friends who all took something different away from it.
Thirteen years later, I still think of Storytelling almost every week; when I sit down to type a new blog post, or when I meet with a producer who's looking to craft his or her own narrative. Not everyone tells their story the same way, and sometimes they're not what we think them to be.