“Inside Llewyn Davis” may not have been the most well-received Coen Brothers film in the Academy’s eyes, but it had everything fans and critics of their work love most: a great soundtrack, a series of darkly comedic occurrences, breathtaking cinematography and, most importantly, an enigmatic protagonist.
The morally ambiguous Llewyn draws a strong resemblance to other main characters in the Coen Brothers’ film canon. Their protagonists are typically introduced to the viewer as being caring, driven, smart and charming individuals who seem to have some sort of a moral compass. But perhaps what’s most interesting — and what Guillermo Del Toro points out as being so — is the slow and methodical unearthing of their uglier, ambivalent, cynical, or opportunistic side.
In the video above, in which Del Toro provides commentary on the film as part of a special bonus feature on the movie’s new Criterion Collection disc, the acclaimed Mexican director starts off the discussion by explaining, “There is a beautiful, beautiful contradiction, I think, in calling [the film] ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ cause you never quite go all the way inside.”
The character is difficult to understand and, at times, seems to behave in opposition to the morality that is first introduced to the viewer. Joel Coen adds, “In the medium of film you can get enormous power out of characters which have a central enigma that doesn’t get explained — that their power comes from their contradictory impulses.” This is one of the ways in which audiences are drawn into the lives, surroundings, and ultimate motivations of the Brothers’ protagonists.
Check out a snippet of the video above or catch it in its entirety on the Criterion Collection release of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” coming January 19.