A Serious Trailer
Published July 30, 2009
It’s rare to find a movie trailer that stands alone as a work of ingenious filmmaking, but the new spot for the Coen Brother’s latest mordant comedy, A Serious Man, is just that. Set in 1967, the film chronicles the exploits of Tony-nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg’s Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a Midwestern university facing the prospects of tenure loss and divorce. The trailer, a brilliant example of clever sound design and cutting, opens with the repeated sound of Larry’s head being smashed against a wall; the continuous thumping forms the rhythm of the entire 1-minute, 40 second clip. Nearly every subsequent shot–some also repeated–adds another sound to the increasingly layered portrait of helplessness, as we see glimpses of Stuhlbarg’s character encounter further instances of bad luck: The cough of an old secretary; the gasp of an unhelpful rabbi; the crash of a rear-end car collision; and so on. It recalls the famous rhythmic sequence from the 1991 French film Delicatessen, but with a more biting humor.