Monday, June 02, 2003
The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Twentieth-Century Man

The Coen Brothers turn to Camus for help telling the story of modern alienation.



I’m sorry but this connection between Camus’ work and this film by the Coen Brothers feels extremely tenuous.  I read this article before watching the film and went in hoping to feel some echoes of Camus’ novel, with which I am very familiar.  I found nothing of the sort.  Camus’ Meursault lives as he does because he accepts the absolute certainty and finality of death.  In this absurd existence all things lose meaning, and Meursault ends up focussing purely on the physical, on the sensory.  He refuses to draw moral judgements and accepts life exactly as it is.  Ed Crane however seems to have none of these defining existential qualities.  Like Meursault, he ends up believing in almost nothing - but with Crane it feels more like a weakness in character than any feelings of disillusionment about the purpose of life.  His final words as he sit in the chair sum him up - he clings to hope in an afterlife and that something better awaits him. I can’t think of anything less like Camus’ Meursault.

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