Coen brothers mashup is a creepy meditation on meaning of life


Look, man, the video, ok? Photo: Gramercy Pictures
Look, man, the video, ok? Photo: Gramercy Pictures

“Sometimes the more you look,” says Tony Shaloub as Freddy Riedenschneider in The Man Who Wasn’t There, “the less you really know.”

Which, of course, sounds like the main theme of almost any Coen brothers film you might have seen; the duo tends to pack even their more mainstream film work with quirky, interesting characters who muse on the meaning of life while behaving, well, oddly.

Steven Baxter, an author, broadcaster and filmmaker, has edited all the films from the Coens’ oeuvre into one stunning visual essay that focuses on themes present in many of the Coen films.

“…this essay has the characters talk to one another across the films so we can more clearly hear the Coens’ dominant concerns: identity, miscommunication and morality,” writes Baxter in the video description. “Taken as a trinity, these elements indicate that the Coens’ true subject is the search for value in a random and amoral universe.”

See what I mean? The short mashup starts with each of the characters introducing themselves, and then starting to “talk” to each other across the films with Baxter’s clever editing.

Once the conversation begins, though, things get weird. They can’t quite say what they mean. They stutter and start and stop sentences. They plan, beg, present, and exist in ways that we all can relate to, which is the real power of a Coen brothers film: the universality of experience we can all tap into, even when the plot is outrageously fantastic. We all look for meaning in a universe that at times truly does feel random and amoral.

I can’t get enough of this five-minute meditation by the characters from various Coen brotehrs films I’ve loved over the years. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.