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/Childhood & Adolescence

What to make of a Riot Grrrl? A snapshot of feminism and high school in the 1990s

18 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/History of Ideas

Music is marvellous, but not mysterious: an interview with Lydia Goehr

6 minutes

Video/Demography & Migration

Amid massive urbanisation and modernisation, rural Japan persists in idiosyncratic corners

30 minutes

Video/Sports & Games

How Gaelic sports became a cultural binding force in Ireland’s most diverse town

15 minutes

Idea/History

Far-distant days: the past has a dizzying power to ground us

Ben Thomas

Essay/Bioethics

The pig on your plate

That pigs are smart and sensitive is not in doubt. How can we justify continuing to kill them for food?

Barbara J King

Video/Sports & Games

Looking like time travellers from a bygone era, sumo wrestlers gather for a competition

3 minutes

Idea/Stories & Literature

Black stories matter: on the whiteness of children’s books

Andrea Adomako

Essay/Cultures & Languages

Is linguistics a science?

Much of linguistic theory is so abstract and dependent on theoretical apparatus that it might be impossible to explain

Arika Okrent