The Coen brothers have returned with another stellar film, “A Serious Man,” following their two previous releases, “No Country for Old Men” and the celeb-packed “Burn After Reading.” This film, set in a 1960′s Minneapolis suburb featuring the most gorgeous mid-century modern furniture ever, follows the life of Larry, which goes from okay to mortally damned.
If you want to read the entire plot of the film, go check out it’s wikipedia page. It’s complicated, dense and somewhat jarring… and like what many reviews say, if you’re not Jewish, you’re going to miss out on a massive swath of humour and meaning.
Despite what I’ve read about the film, some things continue to puzzle me, and still haven’t found a decent explanation for.
1. “A Serious Man” is loosely based on the book of Job, a story about a man who is caught up in at bet of sorts between God and the Devil. Job looses everything, and despite the council he receives from his friends, and despite the bitterness and pain he feels, he does not turn away from God. So to me, it looks like Larry is Job, losing his family and his possessions and his health… simple. I’m still torn on the role of the rabbis, they are either Job’s friends or God himself in person form… if they are his friends, they are offering him useless advice that he doesn’t really take, or if they are God, he is asking them serious questions and not getting much of a response. Either way, I’m okay with that reading.
2. The ending. When Larry finally changes the grade to C- instead of F, within minutes he gets the urgent call from his doctor, and his son is moments away from being ripped out of the ground by a tornado. On one hand, this could be the continuing of Larry’s trials, or the way I see it as, which Larry actually gives up on God and living a “serious” and honest life, and changes the grade. Immediately after he changes the grade, God’s wrath manifests itself physically in his body and as a tornado, about to destroy his only son. Harsh.
3. The prologue. I admit that about 5 minutes into this, I was wondering if I had stumbled into the wrong theatre. In a way, it seems pretty simple. The visitor isn’t defined as being an evil spirit or a regular person (he’s listed as “?” in the credits), which works on the same principles of the theory relayed later in the film about Schrodinger’s cat.
Which leads to Larry’s massive physics diagrams about how you can specifically explain why you can’t actually know anything (and still be responsible for it). I think for a lot of religious people, Christians included, that from a certain philosophical standpoint, an unknowable deity or God cannot be rationally explained. It seems like a straightforward idea, and I like how it’s presented in “A Serious Man.”
If you have any ideas about the film, please share them… I’d love to hear it. It’s going to be a shame that I’ll likely have to wait until after Oscar season before anyone wants to talk about this I guessing.