This trust, given by the art-lover to the artist as easily as a child gives it to his mother, can be abused. And it is precisely this feeling of abuse and betrayal that I felt while watching A Serious Man. It is clear what its creators, Joel and Ethan Coen, had intended – a dark comedy that disturbs and enlightens, in style of Solondz’s ‘Happiness’. It has been touted as their best work ever. Yet despite wondrous performances by some of the supporting actors, the film didn’t manage to disturb and enlighten in right proportions. It disturbed too much and enlightened too little.
The disturbing parts of the film seemed gratuitous – graphically violent scenes punctuate the flow of the film without being meaningful counterpoints to the rest of the plot. It was as if the Coen brothers tickled us playfully underneath our chins, just before they slapped us viciously on the cheek. This is wrong kind of disturbing for a film that means to awake something truthful inside its viewers.
Most of us come to films both innocent and savvy. We bring our openness and trust, and know, too, that growing requires pains. Artists know they can do with our trust as they wish. They can hurt us, and hurt us needlessly. But just because they can, it doesn’t mean it should be done.
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