A Serious Man: Can life be understood?

8 minutes

‘What’s going on?’ How seeking meaning is futile in the Coen Brothers’ universe

The Coen Brothers’ 2009 film A Serious Man tells the story of a mild-mannered physics professor, Larry Gopnik, whose comfortable existence in the US suburbs of the 1960s implodes in a manner recalling the fate of the prophet Job. Like many other Coen Brothers films, it was both lauded and criticised for its unflinching bleakness and various enigmatic narrative contours, including an opening scene that’s seemingly unrelated to the rest of the plot; one character’s fixation on an incomprehensible equation; and an inscrutable parable relayed by a rabbi. In this video essay, Evan Puschak (also known as The Nerdwriter) contextualises A Serious Man’s moving parts, revealing how the Coen Brothers’ underlying philosophy – undercutting Hollywood convention – is one in which suffering and even existence lack meaning. For Larry Gopnik, that’s not good news because it means there’s no easy answer to his desperate refrain: ‘What’s going on?’

Video by The Nerdwriter

Video/Gender & Sexuality

How a dairy farmer preached radical self-acceptance to his gay son in the 1950s

4 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/Ethics

If soldiers act with unjust aggression they are as culpable as civilian criminals

6 minutes

Video/History of Technology

Breakthroughs, quackery and strange beauty: the afterlife of outmoded medical devices

5 minutes

Idea/Stories & Literature

The only line comedy shouldn’t cross is the no-laughter line

Casey Michael Henry

volume_up
play_arrow
pause
Essay/Stories & Literature

The real Casanova

His name is synonymous with serial seduction but Casanova's memoirs reveal a man greater than the sum of his ‘conquests’

Laurence Bergreen

Video/Subcultures

New York City, 1986 – the grit, the graffiti, the glory

18 minutes

Video/Architecture & Landscape

A ski mountain as a stunning ethereal reflection on how we move through nature

14 minutes

Essay/Stories & Literature

Storyhealing

Literature can enthuse medicine, and medicine can inspire literature. They are complementary treatments for being human

Gavin Francis

Idea/Cultures & Languages

Whatever you do, don’t call this an ‘interesting’ idea

Simson L Garfinkel