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Sneak peek at 'A Serious Man'

By Kari VanDerVeen
August 28, 2009

Those eager to see St. Olaf College on the big screen can get a sneak peek with the trailer for Joel and Ethan Coen's new film, A Serious Man, that features several scenes shot on campus.

Filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (left) spent several days on campus last fall filming scenes in the Science Center for their new movie, A Serious Man. At the board is actor Michael Stuhlbarg; cinemetographer Roger Deakins stands at right.

The Coens, Academy Award winners for No Country for Old Men and Fargo, were on campus Oct. 16-17 filming A Serious Man. The St. Olaf scenes were shot in lecture hall 282 in the old Science Center. "Larry's Dream Scene," where the main character's nemesis pounds his head on the blackboard in the St. Olaf lecture hall, is shown extensively in the movie trailer that will be seen in theaters across the nation. The classroom scene shot in the lecture hall is also briefly shown in the trailer. While on campus, members of the film's production team provided St. Olaf students with insight into the movie industry and discussed how the Hill was chosen as a filming site for A Serious Man.

Natives of St. Louis Park, Minn., the Coens will appear in a dialogue and retrospective of all their works that will open Sept. 18 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They are scheduled to appear at the Walker Sept. 25. A Serious Man will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 10-19. It will open in select theaters across the country Oct. 2.

A Serious Man is a dark comedy about an ordinary man's search for clarity in his confused universe. Set in St. Louis Park in 1967, the film is intended in some ways to reflect the childhood of the Coen brothers.

Larry Gopnik (played by Tony Award nominee Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a "quiet Midwestern university," has just learned that his wife is leaving him for one of his colleagues. Larry's unemployable brother is sleeping on the couch, his son is a discipline problem at Hebrew school, and his daughter is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job.

Meanwhile, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry's chances for tenure at the university. On top of that, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three rabbis to help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person -- a mensch -- a serious man.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or