Metaphilm on the Man Who Wasnt There
Metaphilm, as usual, heavy handed in their analysis; but considering The Stranger is one of my favorite books, I was surprised that I did not pick up on any of this…and it makes me ready to see the film (which I was initially disappointed with, now surprising based on this evidence) again…
Twentieth-Century Man</a><blockquote>“Mother died today, or maybe it was yesterday.” These words are spoken by Meursault, the main character in the famous existentialist novel, The Stranger by Albert Camus. Meursault is a young man living in Algeria whose life takes a turn for the worse after he unfeelingly commits a murder. Meursault’s court appearance–where he is found guilty–is more a trial of character than an evaluation of his liability for the crime. After the trial Meursault is sent to prison and put to death.
In MWWT, Ed kills his wife’s lover (Big Dave) when Big Dave unexpectedly attacks him. Ed catches a break, of sorts, when Doris is arrested for Dave’s murder. But then he’s arrested for the murder of the traveling salesman Creighton Tolliver. The main evidence against Ed is the contract for a dry cleaning business that was cosigned by Creighton and Ed. The contract was found next to Creighton--he was beaten to death--in his car at the bottom of a local lake. Most of Ed’s trial deals not with the crime but his character as Twentieth Century Man. Ed is subsequently found guilty, sent to prison, and put to death.
Meursault’s and Ed’s lives should sound similar by now. And this is appropriate, for Ed and Meursault are actually the same person. This is true not only on the level of plot, but also with respect to their personalities. Both are known primarily for exhibiting a total lack of emotion. Both men, for instance, respond in the same calm, almost apathetic manner when proposed to (by Doris and Marie respectively).
The similarities between The Stranger and MWWT are just too coincidental. We can see that the Coen Brothers borrowed directly from The Stranger in order to provide movie viewers (that is, a non-reading audience likely unfamiliar with Camus) with a taste of twentieth century existential philosophy…</blockquote>