a-serious-man-nov-18thThe Coens return to glorious black comedy, drawing upon their Jewish traditions and folklore. The prelude to the film, in subtitled Hebrew/Yiddish, tells of a visitor bringing eternal trouble upon hapless hosts. Cut to Larry Gopnik, a mid-west American professor of physics whose life has started to unravel. His wife wants to replace him in the family home with her lover, his son is listening to rock music instead of studying, his daughter is stealing money for a nose job, and his deserved promotion at college is evaporating. Can nothing halt Larry’s descent into ruin? (Cert 15)
Dirs: Joel and Ethan Coen 101 mins USA 2009
Preceded by Annual General Meeting at 7.30 p.m.

Programme Notes

Thursday, 18 November 2010

USA 2009 101 minutes Cert. 15

To follow the AGM this evening we have selected A Serious Man, which is the Coen Brothers’ most recent film from their black comedy strand. Using a relatively unknown but brilliant cast, with Michael Stuhlbarg playing the hapless Professor Larry Gopnik, the Coens lead us into his world of agonising ‘tsoress’, or bad luck. The prelude to the main film sets the scene: a ‘dybbuk’, a wondering dead spirit, is invited into a family’s home, bringing with it endless tsoress, soon to be visited upon the doomed but ever optimistic Larry…

The themes within the film, while unashamedly Jewish, are nonetheless universal truths, where the certainties of Larry’s beloved mathematics and physics are contrasted with the presence of fate and all things which cannot be rationalised. The search for spiritual enlightenment is an elusive one too, posing more questions than answers.

Larry’s domestic life begins to descend into chaos, as his wife tries to oust him from their home and replace him with her lover. Meanwhile, his son and daughter do not share their father’s aspirations for them, eccentric family members appear from the woodwork, and neighbours displaying worrying behaviour surround him. It’s all closing in…

Prof. Larry Gopnik – Michael Stuhlbarg
Sy Abelman – Fred Melamed
Sarah Gopnik – Jessica McManus
Judith Gopnik – Sari Lennick
Danny Gopnik – Aaron Wolff

Directors – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cinematography – Roger Deakins
Original Music – Carter Burwell
Producers Ethan – Coen, Joel Coen

“We learn from the Book of Job: ‘Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble’. Such a man is Larry Gopnik. He lectures on physics in front of a blackboard filled with bewildering equations that are mathematical proofs approaching certainty, and in his own life, what can be sure of? Nothing, that’s what.”, Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


“I am speechless!”

“Witty and brave!”

“Obviously designed to encourage as all to give up on God!”

“Very funny but also unbearably sad. What an awful but all too realistic family!”

“Miserably funny”

“Yay! … and I thought I had problems!”

“For every dark cloud, there is always a darker one – old Jewish proverb”

“Very hard for a goy! Well made and with great feeling.”

“Amusing and light”

“Probably more funny if you happen to be Jewish but OK. An insight into the Jewish faith but what was the beginning all about?”

“Very clever but a bit of a shaggy dog in a Gupka [?]”

“Too clever for me!”

“A strange oddity with great comic acting, Jewish culture and 1960s pop music. You probably won’t get that Jefferson Airplane track out of your head anytime soon!”

“It was enjoyable and funny in parts but slow in others. Not a fan of the dream sequences – they were good in parts but, in terms of the narrative, were cheap tricks.”

“A cross between Mike Leigh and Woody Allen”

“A bit like waiting for Rabbi Goldberg; nothing happened – four times.”

“Very devious – extremely tedious”

“Oh dear!”


A:5, B:23, C:12, D:5, E:0 to give 66%