Eric Lee on
the gift of time in Stranger Than Fiction
, a movie about Harold Crick, his watch, and the mathematics of free will.
[I]n light of Derrida’s phenomenology of the gift which travels within the Heideggerian trajectory of Being, time, and the “It gives” which gives these both as the condition of the other—that one of the major characters in this story is Harold’s watch. By and large, the watch has very little on-screen time, but we are told from the very beginning, “This is a story about a man named Harold Crick, and his wristwatch.” But, the watch is given no billing in the credits. There is a minor attempt at personality (“His wristwatch thought the single Windsor made his neck look fat, but said nothing”), but arguably the only two other instances where the wristwatch “plays a part” in the narration itself is when the resetting of the watch “would result in his imminent death” and in final scenes when we learn that a shard of the watch embedded itself into his arm, paradoxically (ironically?) saving his life after getting hit by the bus.
Is the wristwatch a character, or is it time itself which ‘plays a part’? The wristwatch is there to order Harold’s life, ‘telling’ him the time. “But,” Heidegger tells us, “time cannot be found anywhere in the watch that indicates time, neither on the dial nor in the mechanism.” Yet, we are told that time is still not nothing, but it does not seem like it is exactly something (a being), either.
Would Derrida want to correct the introduction of Harold’s wristwatch as a major character to that of time itself? Or more precisely, would Derrida indicate the es gibt, which gives both the gift of time and Being in reciprocal determination, as the gift proper which is finally ‘given’? How can a movie be ‘about’ a man and his wristwatch when the wristwatch, as a being apart from Da-sein, never possesses the time about which it purports to point, which is not a being (and yet not nothing)? Therefore, as a final question that Derrida might pose: is the movie about Harold Crick and his wristwatch; or rather is it about Harold Crick and the impossibility of the gift of time?