“So that was Mrs Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, ya know. Don’t ya know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”
This scene from Inside Llewyn Davis is a perfect example of why the Coen brothers are amazing filmmakers. Their writing is so precise and intentional. Everything on the page is there for a reason, and makes it to the screen for a very specific purpose. At first glance, it’s easy for the viewer to think that this phone conversation between Llewyn and Professor Gorfein’s secretary only serves continuity and exposition purposes - to let the audience know that Llewyn has done his due diligence as the Gorfeins’ occasional couch-crasher and informed them that their precious cat is in his possession. But as the story progresses and we learn of the fates of both Llewyn and the cat (who we discover later on is named Ulysses - again, a very intentional name choice), the audience understands that this scene is meant to draw interesting parallels between the two journeying characters. The secretary may have misheard Llewyn, but the mistake is intended, and therefore not lost on the viewer. Nothing is wasted with the Coens. They took what could have been a throwaway conversation and turned it into something meaningful for the audience to think about. That’s great storytelling.