Films that are about making films are numerous, with many wanting to give some perspective to the industry. From The Player to Barton Fink, these films bring a mirror to the industry and show off the darker side of filmmaking. Today, we have a mockumentary that lies in a similar vein, except The Lies We Tell Ourselves follows a much less traditional setup, blending fiction with nonfiction to show off the difficulties of filmmaking and authenticity, all while bringing a dark humor to the forefront.
The film follows Saara Lamberg as she’s in the process of making another film. We watch as she struggles with acquiring funding and hiring actors. This is all juxtaposed with vignettes of her personal life, as we get a glimpse into her mindscape through her witty and ponderous internal narration about what it takes to make a film. She addresses topics such as being true to yourself, genre, critical reception and even her own mental health.
From a filmmaking perspective, I was really impressed with this film’s cinematography. The camerawork is impeccable, with the shots being wonderful to look at in addition to furthering the film’s story. There are a lot of purely visual gags throughout the film and they are always interesting and fun to watch. One that comes to mind is the bizarre black and white scenes with random nudity or the men kissing on the red carpet over Saara’s collapsed body. Additionally, I was surprised by the variety of locations shown throughout the film. We go from the red carpet, to an office building, to a boat and to even just an apartment. This all helps keep the audience on their toes, as they don’t know what to expect.
Unlike Westermarck Effect, The Lies We Tell Ourselves is far more nonlinear in its presentation. Often cutting back and forth from past, present and future. For example, we cut from Saara trying to get funding for her film, to the casting process, to her thoughts on how the film would be received by critics. There is one other film that I’ve seen that How The Lies We Tell Ourselves is presented: Lord of Tears. Although it’s not of the same genre, both tell the story of their main characters through the characters’ thoughts and experiences. But even as a mockumentary, while I’ve seen my fair share of them, I’ve never seen a filmmaker present such blunt honesty about what they often go through during the filmmaking process in a mockumentary. Hell, it makes me realize just how difficult the process is for what we often don’t see on screen.
Perhaps my favorite aspect that Saara presented in her film was the struggles of being taken seriously as an indie filmmaker by financial backers. The woman that Saara visits in order to secure funding is depicted as condescending and even a bit rude and ignorant towards her, often asking if people get paid enough to work on set or questioning the amount of diversity present. To make it all worse, she even mistakes Saara’s ethnicity as German, instead of Finnish. But despite all of these hardships (on top of creepy guys trying to get cast in her film), Saara continues to forge ahead and make the type of movies she wants to make. And that in of itself is extremely respectable in my eyes.
Out of all the indie films that I have reviewed on Film Purgatory, I have rarely seen such a unique film as The Lies We Tell Ourselves. Saara Lamberg truly goes out of her way to show the audience the trials and tribulations on what it takes to be an indie filmmaker. And I can’t help but be impressed by her vision as a director and the choices she makes as a filmmaker. In an industry where concepts and ideas are frequently recycled, Saara Lamberg breathes a breath of fresh air into the film industry!
Co-Written: Owen Gonzalez