DVDTalk sits down with Michael Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man
Have you seen A Serious Man? The Coen brother's brother's latest film? If not, you're missing out. It's fantastic and one of their best films. That's saying quite a bit considering their filmography, but it's true. One of the reasons why it's so terrific is because of Michael Stuhlbarg, who's genuinely fantastic as Larry Gopnik. If you've seen A Serious Man then you know that Gopnik is a nice guy similar to Stuhlbarg. I talked to Stuhlbarg a few months back while he was doing promotion and, to my surprise, he actually remembered me. I expected the old, "oh yeah, sure I remember," but it was far from it. He remembered something I said to him specifically, which brought a big fat smile to my face. I couldn't have been more happy to talk to him again considering how much one can talk about A Serious Man. As two quick side notes, any fan of the film should be quite pleased with the blu-ray transfer and there are spoilers present here and there will be warnings.
DVD Talk: Larry Gopnik is obviously a very nice guy and while many say he doesn't deserve any of what happens to him, you could argue maybe he does a little bit.
Michael Stuhlbarg: Oh, goodness. Does anybody deserve all that? He's guilty perhaps of the sin of losing track of his family. On one level, he gets deep within the world of his teaching and loses track of those who are close to him. On that level, it's certainly a warning tale to those of us who submerge ourselves in our work to remind ourselves to stay in touch with the ones we love. You're suppose to poke your head out of your job every now and then to remember why or for whom you're working for.
DVD Talk: He doesn't deserve everything he gets, but he has that line, "there are consequences to these actions," which is sort of what he gets.
Michael Stuhlbarg: I think he's confronted with a difficult situation and he has to make a difficult decision at the end of the film. Under the circumstances he doesn't know what else he can do. I think he makes a difficult decision hoping for less of an evil. It's the point that brings on the downfall of the rest of the movie (laughs). He does the best he can under these circumstances, but he's obviously somewhat responsible for getting himself there. On one level, that can certainly be argued. But we're not told about his life before this...
DVD Talk: You could argue maybe that we are, the opening has been interpreted as those people being the Gopnik ancestors.
Michael Stuhlbarg: Absolutely, someone has told me at one point that there was a photo of that couple shown later on in the film. I haven't seen that yet, but I'm going to have to look for it next time.
DVD Talk: What do you think about the irony that the film itself isn't even named after Larry? Sy Ableman is the serious man.
Michael Stuhlbarg: That's right! Yeah, it's very funny (laughs).
DVD Talk: You could say though that Larry is a serious man compared to everyone else. From his neighbor to his wife, they're sort of spins on caricatures and a little cartoony perhaps.
Michael Stuhlbarg: (Spoiler Warning) I think Larry takes his life and his work very seriously. He takes everything seriously, but I don't think he's familiar with the term "a serious man" until Sy Ableman's memorial service. When he hears Sy being described in this manner I think he takes it to heart and it's something that he hoped people would think of him as. (Spoiler Over) Maybe he doesn't think of himself in that manner, but maybe it's because he thinks people don't look at him that way in the community. He works really hard and he tries to do the right thing... That's a good explanation of what a serious man is.
DVD Talk: What do you think of all the self-referential lines? There's a few that you could argue as being that like "accept the mystery" or the line about telling fables to teach lessons.
Michael Stuhlbarg: I think that's good... Yeah, there's also that quote at the beginning "receive with simplicity." I suppose that Joel and Ethan could be saying that to us while we're watching, accept the mystery.
DVD Talk: Going back to the whole ancestor theory, the parallel between Larry and Danny could be seen as the curse being passed on. Their paths and the ending to their stories are a bit similar.
Michael Stuhlbarg: (Spoiler Warning) Yeah, with that nasty tornado (laughs). I sort of imagine the tornado passing without much drama, at least that's how I'd like it to be. (Spoiler Over)
DVD Talk: It even starts and ends with them in similar moments, at the beginning Larry is getting a checkup and Danny is listening to music. At the end, Larry is getting a call about that check up and Danny is again listening to music.
Michael Stuhlbarg: Yeah, he's right back at where he started again. Larry doesn't get that opportunity.
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