When the closing credits began to roll at the end of Joel and Ethan Coen's new film A Serious Man, nobody at the press screening moved. The end comes at a rather surprising moment, when a lot of things are happening, and we all found it necessary to sit there for a moment and process everything. One colleague and I talked about the movie over lunch -- and more specifically, we talked about what it means when you see a movie and don't understand what it means.

Not that A Serious Man (no spoilers here) is mystifying or hard to follow or anything like that. But it has elements that may not make sense at first glance. It has a prologue, set several decades ago in Eastern Europe, that has no obvious connection to the main story, set in 1967 in Minnesota. There are a few characters and plot threads that don't seem to fit with the others. Overall, it's a very satisfying and engaging film. It just might not all add up at first.

And that's what my friend and I were talking about. My contention is that since this is the Coen Brothers -- a pair of experienced filmmakers with a proven track record -- I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. If some significant aspect of the film seems puzzling, I'll assume it's because I've failed to grasp its meaning and not because the Coens have screwed up. I mean, that prologue: It's not like it's there on accident. The Coens put it there for a reason, to support a theme or to enhance an idea. Now it befalls me to figure out what that reason was.