14 January 2012
Screenplay: A Serious Man Part Two
Again, I want to point out that I am not an expert trying to make a point. I am a blogger and I try to intellectually engage screenplays, books, and movies in an attempt to develop as a writer. Every time I reread a book, I notice completely different things.
The Coen brothers have a very specific style and have done very well for themselves "breaking the rules". One of my favorite professors from college talked about how to break the rules. A lot of film students come to class with stars in their eyes, visions of making revolutionary films that don't adhere to this mainstream bulls**t that they consider a noose. He told us that before you can break the rules, you have to understand them. Once you understand them, you need a reason to break them. (I'm a huge fan of structure. And also Nathan Bransford, who has a great old post on breaking the rules.)
The Coen brothers break a huge rule in A Serious Man. Huge. THE DON'T HAVE AN ENDING. No, seriously, they don't. Well... if you want a huge *SPOILER* the ending is... everybody dies (I assume)! *End Spoiler* And that's not an ending. But it works for A Serious Man, because the structure perfectly mirrors the theme of the entire story, which is that it doesn't matter.
Nothing matters. The main character, Larry, struggles to find meaning in every scene. At one point he sees his Rabbi who tries to comfort him with a story, but stops before the end. Larry asks him what happened and the Rabbi responds: Does it matter? It turns out it doesn't. When we hear the end of the story, there is no answer anyway.
The script works, for me, because the screenplay itself seems to ask: You want an end? Does it matter? And it doesn't. Not when the point of the story is that we struggle so hard for things that don't matter and care so much about things that are meaningless. And even with this bleak outlook (or is my own struggle for meaning in this world shading my reading of this story), the script is funny. It's enjoyable. It breaks the rules, but has a great reason for doing so.