Sunday, November 8, 2015

Twentieth Century Novels Need More Aliens ( Thoughts on The Man Who Wasn't There)

The movie The Man Who Wasn’t There reminded me a lot of The Stranger. From the absurd ideas to the trial, there were lots of similarities. It was a little difficult for me to follow along with the plot of The Man Who Wasn’t There and that combined with the general vibe of creepiness the movie gives off made it an unpleasant two hours for me. While I wouldn’t want to watch it again or recommend it to a friend, I could be convinced to watch a sequel about what happens to Birdy, Frank and Dave’s wife after Ed is executed. The one thing I did enjoy about this movie was the UFO references. It didn’t play a huge role in the plot, but I found it lightened up an otherwise serious story. Imagine if all of our twentieth century novels had aliens in them; “Gregor is returned home after a night aboard a UFO to find himself a giant cockroach” or “Howie found the aliens’ spaceship rather interesting. He wondered what life was like on their planet. Were they so advanced that they had invented special tear- proof shoelaces? Or perhaps they had evolved to no longer need shoes at all”.  I have found some of the books we’ve read a little boring and aliens could definitely liven them up.


  1. When watching The Man Who Wasn't There I actually found that the UFO/Alien scenes were kind of silly, didn't fit in with the plot, and detracted from the seriousness of the movie.

  2. I'll pass over that preposterous remark about "boring" books on my syllabus in silence--but I do suspect that the Coens were likely thinking along these lines. I suppose some meaning could be read into the UFO stuff (a kind of representation of metaphysical meaning? a less-than-indifferent universe, watching over us, in contrast to the "benign indifference" Meursault sees in the night sky?), but it seems to me that it probably just occurred to the Coens at some point that the noir period the film reflects was also the time when UFO hysteria was strongest in American popular culture--so one more pop-cultural curveball to throw into the mix.

    Once you know the UFO plot is there, though, on subsequent viewings you start to see UFO-shaped objects throughout the film (e.g. look again at the rows of light fixtures in Nirdlinger's when Big Dave and Ed are talking upstairs; there are UFO-shaped ashtrays present throughout; the hubcap rolling after the accident, etc.)