A Serious Man - a difficult film

Has anybody else seen this yet? The latest Coen brothers film, it’s a bitch to disect. One reviewer says it’s the film you can make after you win an Oscar. It’s a deep plunge into the Jewish psyche, and as such was somewhat difficult for this gentile to unravel. It’s very well done, of course, if somewhat incomprehensible at first viewing. The Coens are nothing if not deft at direction and writing, and the film has been dubbed everything from a failure to a masterpiece. Any thoughts?

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I know that the Coen Brothers’ philosophy is to “make whatever kind of movie you want and hope for the best”.

Yeah me and my girl went to see it… well afterwards… we were like… umm well … yeah … umm well the Japanese Restaurant we went to prior too was really really good… wow Yeah the chef kicked serious ass… the veggies were great…
Seriously… they lost me here… and I absolutely loved Burn after reading… maybe i just didn’t get it… i hated everyone in the movie and kept waiting for it to get goin… i missed this curveball…

It’s a pretty simple, understated film that I think is quite well done. All they seem to ask throughout is: Why do bad things happen to good people? Especially religious ones? It also explores a lot of existential issues - existential loneliness vs. God, meaning, all of that - but it’s not an attempt to make anything on the scale of No Country for Old Men or, say, The Big Lebowski.

This is an insightful look at the film. The recurring complaint of “I didn’t do anything” is central to the film. I liked the tie-in between the dybbuk and Schrodinger’s cat and the dream sequence wherein Larry proves the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and tells his students that even though he has proved that nothing is certain, it will still be on the mid-term exam.

I took it as a meditation on God (and whether he is there, and if so what the devil he is up to). Put me in the “masterpiece” camp. I thought it was brilliant.

Exactly. All of the trials, scenes and dialog go to this central idea and the biblical story of Job. “Why me?” Well. . .why NOT you? What makes you any more special to a deity than anyone else? Trying to figure it out is completely hopeless, and even your religious leaders don’t have a clue (“Just look at that parking lot, Larry.”).

Like a lot of Coen brothers movies, I think this one will reward repeated viewings. Every time I see No Country for Old Men (for example) I pick up on something new. The result is that I like the movie better every time I see it. I’m sure this one will be the same.

Right. There has been a lot of puzzlement over the opening sequence, but to me it just fits right in with the theme. Is there a spirtual world affecting our lives, or is that all silly superstition? The question is laid out in that opening sequence.

Once I thought about Larry going through the math for Shrodinger’s Cat, it made a bit more sense: is he alive or dead? How can you determine it with any certainty? Well, stick an ice pick in its chest and see what happens. Sometimes theorizing about things will just drive you crazy, so tell God to go fuck himself and see if anything happens to you.

An interview with the star: http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/02/09/serious.man.coens.stuhlbarg/index.html?hpt=Mid

Just saw it, and liked it very much. Not my favorite Coen Bros. film, but pretty good. I liked the repeated themes of misfortune, faith and especially uncertainty (dybbuk or not, bribe or not, divorce or not, Schrodinger’s cat being dead or not, God’s will or random chance).

Larry seeing the beautiful neighbor, Mrs. Samsky, sunbathing nude from up on his roof reminded me of the story of King David seeing Bathsheba from his palace’s roof while she bathed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathsheba). Larry dreamed about having sex with Mrs. Samsky, but only smoked some pot with her.

And when Danny, Larry’s son, goes to meet with the elderly rabbit after his bar mitzvah, among all the clutter in the rabbi’s office, the camera lingers on Caravaggio’s painting of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Issac (the second painting here): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrifice_of_Isaac_(Caravaggio). Later, when Larry seems to have accepted the Korean student’s bribe and changed his grade at the end, he may unknowingly be about to sacrifice his son to God (via the tornado).

Previous threads:


I just learned there is an Ethan Coen and an Etan Coen. Two diff people.

I wonder if Etan took that name so that people would confuse him with Ethan?

Very strange!

They are both screenwriters.

I wonder if I contacted Etan and told him I would be willing to change my name to Jole Coen. I wonder if he would team up with me to write a movie.

Etan Coen wrote Idiocracy - a real idiotic film.

There is also another Joel Coen writing movies. He wrote Garfield, for example. According to Bill Murray, this is why Bill signed on to be the voice of Garfield. He saw Joel Coen’s name on the script, assumed that it was the Joel Coen, and signed on without further investigation, and without actually bothering to read the crappy script.

TV Tropes has an interesting dissection of the movie: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/ASeriousMan

Hey, I like Idiocracy. It’s what plants crave.

Good post EH, thanks for the heads up. I don’t have much to add from what I said in my other posts. I still love it. I still love reading the intelligent posts like yours and in the other threads (which I just read through again) from people who like it. You all are much more articulate and interesting than anything I could contribute. I’ll be reading your links later when I have more time.

I really have to see Inside Llewyn Davis again. Someone in the other thread said they (paraphrasing) had no desire to see A Serious Man again to try to figure it out or get to know it better and I thought, Oh, what a shame, because it deserves and will reward repeated viewings. And then I realized that’s me with ILD. I didn’t like any of the characters, couldn’t relate to the time, place or setting, and even though it had lots of fun moments, I had no desire to see it again. Shame on me! All Coen films deserve 2nd looks. I will see it again.

I absolutely agree. It gets both funnier and more tragic with repeated viewings–and of how many movies can that be said?

That’s what stood out to me, too. Larry’s choice–to do nothing!–matters.

I haven’t seen A Serious Man since I saw it in the cinema but I loved it. I was rolling in the aisles.