Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I had heard good things about A Serious Man, and being a huge Coen brothers fan, I knew I'd enjoy it. Now, I hadn't planned on watching it Saturday, but it seems I was destined to. I watched Raising Arizona while I cleaned my apartment and The Big Lebowski had been haunting me last week in the form of this amazing t-shirt.
Then, as Dan and I sat on the couch that night, wondering what to watch, Comcast was bragging about all the Oscar nominees it was featuring On Demand. Precious hadn't come out yet, so we chose A Serious Man.

What a great movie. Philosophical to the core. This is a movie that dares us to ask "Why?" and is then bold enough not to give us an answer. The humor and tragedy are momentous. And even though it's set in the '60s, it seems entirely relevent in  these tough and uncertain times.
The Coens are at the peak of their game. They have become a well-oiled, great movie making machine. I think what sets them apart is the way every movie is somehow like nothing you've seen before. Surreal in parts, painfully realistic in others, and always making you think. The art direction, casting and use of camera angles are also consistently brilliant in their films. This one is no exception.

This movie pulls a clever trick, because while the character is trying to figure out why these things are happening, you yourself are trying to figure out why the Coens believe they're happening, but just like whatever higher power may be orchestrating the universe, they're not giving anything away.
Your own personal faith and philosophies will color your opinion on the big "Why?"
I know this because the reviewers vary in their answers to the "Why?"

Larry is a physics professor and family man. His life begins to unravel around him. He wants to know why.
The Coens give us many possiblitites: God is teaching him, God is punishing him, it's blind luck, it's a matter of physics, it's for no reason at all.

I believe the reason this film is so haunting and powerful because it really does present the reality of that last possibility. Perhaps there is no reason or rhyme. Perhaps it's all chaos. Maybe no matter how good we are or how hard we try, bad things will still happen to us.

The beginning quote says it all. "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you." Rashi.

What's the most simple explanation? God? Physics? Luck? Fate? Or is the most simple explanation that there is no explanation?

No comments: