“That rug really tied the room together.”- The Dude and Other Characters
Who would have thought that a stoner flick from the 90’s with anti-Christ undertones could inspire a cult following so grand that it would turn into its own religion?
The Big Lebowski is an American crime-comedy written, directed and produced by the Coen brothers, which has been preserved in the National Film Registry by Library of Congress as being culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.
Our lord and true savior, who is also the protagonist of this story, is The Dude. A laid-back, burn-out who lives in Los Angeles and throws around bowling balls for fun. The film truly kicks off when a guy mistakes our Lebowski for another billionaire Lebowski and pees on his rug. Now being the chill guy Dude is, he lets it pass. But his ill-tempered Vietnamese veteran mate Walter convinces him to go to the big man and ask for a new rug. After all, that rug really did tie the room together.
What follows suit is a crazy tale of sub-par action, lots of swearing and some intense acid flashbacks. By the end of it though, The Dude doesn’t unravel a great mystery or fall in love or even get a new rug. Then why are people getting The Dude’s face tattooed on themselves, you ask?
That’s because the Coen brothers did magic whilst creating a classic that parodies itself. The Big Lebowski is at its heart a noir film. So ‘inspired’ by Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep that it even copies two words from its name.
And the similarity does not end there!
A common trend in noir films are characters who are haunted by their past. Many of the films main characters also struggle with this theme. Walter, The Dude’s angry friend, is haunted by his days in Vietnam. Maude, mother of The Dude’s child and the closest thing he has to a love interest, is stuck in the Fluxus art movement. And The Dude himself is, obviously, stuck in the flower child era.
Also, most noir stories are set during World War II. Our story unfolds during a bowling tournament between The Dude and his friends Walter and Donny against a pedophile named Jesus.
The Coen brothers do not come off as big fans of organized religion, do they? Wonder what they think of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude.
Another thing the brothers did not seem fond of were societal norms. For instance, billionaire Lebowski with this hot-trophy wife is considered successful by societal standards. However, we later find out it was all just a facade.
GASP! Who would have ever thought?
But probably the most Chinese Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism subject the film deals with is Donny’s death. Donny is a timid guy trying to help his bowling buddy out. In the end he silently dies of a heart-attack whilst Walter bites one of the nihilist’s ear off in “serious” combat. At his very heart-felt funeral, his ashes are thrown from a coffee can into the ocean whilst Walter rants on about the Vietnam war. After which The Dude goes back to drinking white Russian and blowing.
Nothing changes. Life goes on. The Dude abides.
The films greatest message then probably becomes that in a world where nothing has inherent meaning; it is unnecessary to wage war and be violent.
The best thing to do is: chill.
Anybody up for recommend this movie to the UN Security Council for a movie night?