So I just walked out of A Serious Man and I’m not sure what to make of it. I’ll jot some thoughts about the movie here.
First of all, I thought it was kind of inaccessible in some ways. I mean, in general you can see that this is perhaps a character study of Larry and perhaps of his son as well. You can sympathize with the fucked up things that happen to him, laugh at the funny stuff, scratch your head at the weird stuff, etc. It’s not like it’s hard to follow.
More like, it’s so culturally closed to non-Jews and particularly to people who don’t know a lot about Judaism and Jewish culture other than what they have seen in movies and TV or read about randomly on the net (usually your typical conspiracy theory or Jewish mysticism stuff, always good for a laugh or whatnot). The references and particularly some of the language and terminology totally escaped me and I felt very much an outsider. In addition, the movie seems to be riding some degree of physics/philosophy subtext that I, being a huge layman with physics if not philosophy, had a hard time negotiating. In the end, it’s all kind of perplexing.
The movie is saying something about how the Uncertainty Principle applies to life, perhaps claiming that it is connected to the meaninglessness of the search for meaning. Larry’s search for meaning leads him to absurdities or dead-ends and it seems his Orthodox (?) Jewish culture utterly fails him. Perhaps there’s something of a critique of these traditions here, but I’m not sure if I should read that much into it. The Coens are often called misanthropic and I’m pretty sure A Serious Man falls into this category at the very least. It may even be their most crisply told story of futility and chaos yet. No Country for Old Men had similar themes, and just as many red-herrings to exploit audience expectations. This would almost feel like a companion piece to that if it weren’t for the delivery being so utterly different.
Certainly an interesting film. I’m just not sure I understood it particularly well or that I much liked it. That said, the ending is great.