The renowned duo informally referred to as The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, have long been notorious for producing and directing eccentric, puzzling and uncanny movies. Known for titles such as The Big Lebowski, Bad Santa, No Country for Old Men or the movie in question, A Serious Man, which is just one of their many masterpieces that has a cliffhanger ending. The drama’s pivot is Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Hebrew School Physics teacher who finds himself confronted with several stressful situations that progressively affect his inner and outer harmony.
All in all, The Coen Brothers sought to emphasize the heavy burdens existing on Garry’s shoulders by sketching drastic changes within the environment surrounding him (e.g. relatives, children, work colleagues, etc.). The movie also deals with spiritual matters that seek to elevate the perception of man towards Divinity, thus disregarding petty activities. As the movie commences, we begin to perceive the overall dissatisfaction of Larry and his inactive behavior. Although he does hold an idea of what should be done for mending his family or even his life, he is reluctant. Moreover, his powers decrease in strength bit by bit as he is continuously attacked by outer factors that bring about turbulence.
A Serious Man is a challenging movie – the type that dares viewers to engage themselves fully in the events and partake in the demystification of the ending. The primary idea of it is to provoke viewers to engage into self-analysis through the process of witnessing the life of a failed teacher and family man.
The last minutes depict Larry accepting the bribe for one of his students, Clive Park over a phone call. His decision to do this ultimately reflects his desire for reacting against the distressing events. The second that Larry finishes the call, he receives another from his doctor who draws his attention to the fact that they should both meet in person for discussing the situation of his chest X-ray result. The second surprising turn of events which unfolded right after Larry’s desperate and somewhat hasty decision has to do with his son, Danny (Aaron Wolff). Sat in the face of an approaching tornado with his classmates and teacher, Danny has to take immediate shelter.
The ending is indeed left open; it is the type of ending that needs to be revised and given time to mull over. Whatever the ideas that may arise, it can be said that one of the reasons for the sudden negative arousal of events is God. As Larry’s made the decision of accepting the bribe, he managed to unleash God’s wrath directly upon himself and his family. Everything from the Prologue, to the Physics class to the songs of Jefferson Airplane confer the idea that indeed there is a God Almighty who vigilantly watches over mankind. Through menacing or inconsiderate choices, man can be punished or asked to pay for the awful calamities he has created.