The Indie flick and Deus ex Machina?

I’m sorry, but when did a film’s “indie” status allow for the justification and use of Deus ex Machina? Surely there are better ways to run counter to dominant cinema’s conventions?

Let’s take a look at two of the three films we’ve seen thus far: Stranger than Paradise and Simple Men.  I’d like to focus on these two in particular because they both operate within a “natural” or “realistic” story-world (as supposed to Delicatessen, which is explicitly fantastic). I find it odd that both of these films, despite their realistic story-world, employ deus ex machina, the favorable coincidence that I believe to be characteristically unrealistic.

Consider Stranger than Paradise: Eva, walking along the beach, is handed thousands of dollars in cash, because (as it’s revealed seconds after she exits) she is wearing the exact same outfit as the intended recipient.  J.J. Murphy discusses this scene on page 43 of his book, Me and You and Memento and Fargo, but seems to dismiss (or sidestep) it with “that the envelope would also contain the means for Eva to escape strains credibility even further.” (43) Now, I understand the argument that this event is permissible because the cash itself appears inconsequential to the characters. Nevertheless, the episode constitutes an overwhelmingly surreal experience in a film that otherwise strives for realism.

Similarly, in Simple Men, the two brothers’ motorcycle happens to break down by a diner full of people who are inextricably linked to their father. Had their bike not died in that exact spot, Bill would not have met Kate and it seems likely that they would have never have found their father.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for breaking dominant cinema’s conventions. But to turn to pure luck or chance seems to me to be a weak means of doing so. Can anyone provide me with a solid justification?


Your email address will not be published.

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.