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/Evolution

Flashing together: when fireflies meet LEDs, the result is a beautiful lightshow

2 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/Logic

Western logic has held contradictions as false for centuries. Is that wrong?

6 minutes

Video/Internet & Communication

A classic film on communication finds renewed meaning in the age of memes and emojis

22 minutes

Idea/Stories & Literature

This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction

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Video/Travel

Castles, croquet and kilts: on the tour bus from China through the photo ops of Britain

10 minutes

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Essay/Stories & Literature

The truth about tarot

Whether divining ancient wisdoms or elevating the art of cold reading, tarot is a form of therapy, much like psychoanalysis

James McConnachie

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Idea/Stories & Literature

So I exaggerate a little – am I wrong to jazz up my stories?

Andrea Askowitz

Video/Subcultures

Utopian communities rarely last. How have the Hutterites done it over four centuries?

28 minutes

Essay/Stories & Literature

Sands of time

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It's also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

David Farrier