However distasteful (see Palindromes), Solondz's movies are genuinely philosophical. 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?

Snyder as Timmy: Literal-minded, self-absorbed, and anxious.
Francisco Roman
Snyder as Timmy: Literal-minded, self-absorbed, and anxious.

Details

Life During Wartime, starring Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, Shirley Henderson, Dylan Snyder, Ciarán Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Lerner, and Paul Reubens. Written and directed by Todd Solondz. 97 minutes. Not rated.

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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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