Question Of The Week: "The Man Who Wasn't There"

by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

The last half century has been filled with antiheroes of all stripes in film, music and literature, but the character that resonated with me most closely is Ed Crane from the Coen Brothers’ relatively unheralded “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”  The movie is a wry neo-noir, replete with all the Coens’ emblematic genre homage and character subtleties, but I find the near-mute protagonist the most effecting element of the film.

Though the plot twists and turns around him, eventually delivering him to a tragic fate, Ed himself is unfazed and unsurprised by its development, endlessly smoking cigarettes, turning down offers of social drinks and literally incapable of finding anything to say in a number of diverse situations.  It is only until he is facing execution where he wishes for a place for all those things they don’t have words for in this life.

This perfectly encapsulates what I suspect is a similar feeling among many in a suddenly hyper-charged tech-driven world, a condition in which the courtroom testimony renders Ed “guilty of living in a world that has no place for him.”  Smoking on the street corner during my work breaks, this scene enters my mind consistently.