The primary narrator of the film, Josiah “Tink” Thompson, relays John Updike’s reaction:
Thompson: He said that his learning of the existence of the umbrella man made him speculate that in historical research there may be a dimension similar to the quantum dimension in physical reality. If you put any event under a microscope you will find a whole dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on. It’s as if there’s the macro level of historical research where things sort of obey natural laws and usual things happen and unusual things don’t happen. And then there’s this other level where everything is really weird.
Moving on from “The Umbrella Man,” Thorn talks about how there exists a commonality among filmmakers—at least when being interviewed—to identify with being a storyteller, and how being a storyteller strikes at something very basic within us. It gives us “a real rush in our brains because it’s supposed to be there, like it’s the thing that makes us really good at hunting or whatever, and it makes me really worried and uncomfortable that this goes on in all of our brains uncontrollably and is this powerful bias in our lives towards narrative. Unless it’s narrativized it’s not absorbed, and if you narrativize something that isn’t rational, it will be absorbed.” Weschler counters:
Weschler: There’s an interesting problem. I would phrase it differently, I would phrase that in most of our lives we are treated like robots; we are treated like Pavlovian dogs. And I find on the contrary that the capacity for narrative—for experiencing things as narrative and for getting a rush out of the narrative—is actually kind of hopeful in that context … I think in much the way that your gallbladder secrets bile and your pancreas secretes insulin, your brain secretes stories, and that’s not frivolous, that’s great.