Growing up in a religious Jewish community, I always had a special affinity for the films of the Coen brothers. Their cheeky humor was appealed to my cynical side and the whispers I heard that they’d grown up Orthodox made me feel an unearned kinship with them. Seeing Walter Sobchak on screen was a formative experience for a generation of Sabbath-observing Jews. As I got older and a little brighter, I started to notice the murky moral waters in which their films swam and my appreciation for them deepened.
Throughout their films, the Coens grapple with the struggles between good and evil, the impact of luck and fate on our lives, and the concept of a creator running it all. Matt Zoller Seitz spoke with film critic Jeffrey Overstreet in Indiewire last month about the representation of religion in the worlds of the Coens:
I think the Coens suggest him via negativa. They show the incompleteness and insufficiency of a vision that leaves God out. There are clearly human evils at work —evils of foolishness, carelessness, folly, and evils of greed and deliberate violence. But there are also evils of apocalyptic, seemingly supernatural proportions. As No Country demonstrates, good deeds and the power of law are not enough to save the world. Ultimately, the best we can do is seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the presence of something greater than ourselves.