Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Serious Man

a serious man
Originally uploaded by mueredecine
Physics professor Larry Gopnik is blindsided by his life; his teenage children want nothing out of him unless it’s the fix the television antenna or kick his brother out of the bathroom, a student is trying to bribe him for a passing grade and his wife has just informed him that she wants a divorce so she can marry their friend Sy Ableman. Confused and overwhelmed Larry turns to his three Rabbi’s hoping that they can shed some light on why all of this is happening in his life.

Joel & Ethan Coen make movies unlike anyone else, A Serious Man is by far one of the most unique cinematic experiences released in 2009. In fact, A Serious Man is a film that can’t simply be watched in one viewing and understood – I am still not sure if I completely understood the film. After watching the Coen’s latest best picture nominee I completely understand why it garnered as much recognition as it did, though it is definitely not a film that appeals to the mass audience.

Part of what I enjoyed so much about A Serious Man was the sense of humor behind it. This is not an obvious comedy, but as with anything the Coen’s make there is a sense of humor running throughout it; it’s unique, a bit twisted and more than anything very personalized to the world of their film. The humor in this film comes from the fact that Larry Gopnik is the victim of a tragic comedy and he is completely unaware of it.

There are many themes running through A Serious Man one of the biggest being action & reaction – parallels in lives and situations. Larry & Sy both wanting to be with Larry’s wife, Larry’s son getting to talk to Rabbi Marshak when Larry is never allowed entry to Marshak’s presence, Larry & Sy’s accidents coinciding on the same day, etc. but this is not the only pattern hidden in the film. This film is filled to the brim with symbolism, reference and the mundane and sorting through it will be something film scholars do for generations yet only the Coens will ever know what the meaning behind A Serious Man truly is.

Directors & Writers: Ethan & Joel Coen
Larry Gopnik: Michael Shuhlbarg
Uncle Arthur: Richard Kind
Sy Ableman: Fred Melamed
Judith Gopnik: Sari Lennick
Danny Gopnik: Aaron Wolff
Sarah Gopnik: Jessica McManus

Larry Gopnik: You understand the dead cat? But... you... you can't really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That's the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they're like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean - even I don't understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.

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