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The snow, the songs and the sadness – my reasons for loving Inside Llewyn Davis

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Inside Llewyn Davis

There are countless of aspiring singers in this world. Even if you only include the ones who have managed to make a real record, there are still thousands and yet thousands of them. Only a handful will fly. The rest will see their dream grow thinner and thinner until it has evaporated altogether. Then they’ll get an ordinary, unexciting job like the rest of us, a box of their unsold records in the cellar the only reminder of that they once believed that they had the potential to do something else. And eventually they have to let go of that too, because they’re moving and there isn’t room for all that old “junk” in the new place.

There are many of them and yet you never hear about them. It’s a matter of logic of course. The moment you hear about them, they lose their status as “unheard of” and they enter that other, smaller category of “moderately to very successful singers”. But there’s more than that to it.

Our current culture teaches us from young age that if you try hard enough you can become anything you want; it’s just a matter of dedication. And this belief is fed by the success stories we’re served in movies, literature and the media, about people who succeed despite having the odds against them. We suck those stories like leeches, never wanting to let go of them. They bring oxygen to whatever fire or hidden dream we carry inside. We want them and we need them. And that’s why the stories of the singers with the broken dreams so rarely are told. It’s too depressing to think about, so we look in a different direction, pretending that they’re not there or pretending that their lives are more glamorous than they are. Deep down we know of course that not everyone can become a star. But it’s not something we like to be reminded about.

Struggles without hope
Coming from this, it’s perhaps not all that surprising that Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t become an instant success with the Academy Awards jury. Struggling artists have been shown before, such as in The Artist the other year, but in that case you weren’t just presented with a problem. You also got a solution and a hope for better times and no shadow was cast on the business. All is well that ends well. Without giving away the end, Inside Llewyn Davis presents a more realistic look on the prospects of the aspiring singer.

To me this was like a much darker, twisted version of the Irish movie Once. They both feature a bearded, talented guy who sings beautiful songs. But in Inside Llewyn Davis, there is no sweet love story, unless you count the cat that spends some time with him on a few occasions.  The singer isn’t just hoping for a record contract: he has already made a record and it hasn’t led him anywhere. And New York is freezing cold, especially if you can’t afford an overcoat.

Plotting around
Those who prefer movies to have proper plots are likely to get disappointed. The film is said to take place during a week, but frankly I had no real sense of time. You just see the musician plotting around, not doing very much apart from playing here and there, trying to get hold of some money or looking for a cat who is on the run. You could say that it’s a little aimless.

But as much as I appreciate good storytelling, I think it’s a little overrated when it comes to movies. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but it’s not all there is to movie making.

Not all great songs have texts that make sense. Sometimes a few words of nonsense are perfect because of how they sound. Not every great painting needs to portray an existing person or thing. A splash of colour can be much more powerful in provoking a reaction, stir the waters inside you that rarely are visited. A movie doesn’t need to be “about” something particular or have an aim to inspire you to great deeds and to pursuit your dream to be enjoyable.

Why I loved Inside Llewyn Davis
I love Inside Llewyn Davis for the way that the light hits people’s face. I love it for how you can feel the coldness against the legs as Llewyn Davis crosses a patch of snow. I love it for the cat, so help me God. I think it’s a little bit of a cheap trick to insert a charming, quirky pet into a movie to make it more likeable, but every scene that cat is in, he or she steals, that’s just the way it is. I love Inside Llewyn Davis for the melancholy and for how it captures the urge to hit the road, even if it’s a road that doesn’t take you anywhere. I love it because it puts the spotlight on someone who isn’t altogether likeable and who doesn’t pull his shit together and doesn’t personify the American dream.

But most of all I love Inside Llewyn Davis for the music. I don’t think I’ve bought a film soundtrack since I got the one for The Commitments, on vinyl as it was back in those days. I might very well buy the one from this one, because it’s that good. And then I’ll put it in the record player in my car and take a long trip without any set goal. And as I drive I’ll reconcile myself to the fact that I never was a star and that I’ll never become one. Being a beautiful snowflake is all that most of us can hope for. The sky is full of us, and we’re falling, falling, falling, to the ground where we’ll evaporate, and before we know it we’ll be gone, as if we never existed. All there’s left of us is a box of records in the container or a long time forgotten blog post, on drift in cyberspace, read and remembered by no one.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan & Joel Cohen, US 2013) My rating: 4/5


My fellow Swedish bloggers in the Filmspanarna network have also watched this film. Here’s what they made of it:

Except Fear
Fiffis Filmtajm
Fripps filmrevyer
Har du inte sett den
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord
We could watch movies
Moving landscapes


Written by Jessica

February 12, 2014 at 6:00 am