Nostalgia and Cynicism in Crimes and Misdemeanors.

In this clip from Woody Allen’s 1989 film, we see our protagonist entering the house he grew up in as a child and reflecting on his past. Needless to say, he’s in quite a nostalgic mood, having to bear the guilt of having just murdered someone. He converses with the current home owner and reflects on his memories of growing up in the house, perhaps longing for that innocence again. He then wanders into the dining room, where a Jewish family is saying grace before dinner. He eavesdrops and discover that they are actually having a philosophical, and perhaps cynical, discussion on the concept of morality and whether it actually exists. Some say that it doesn’t, that it merely exists for people who want guidance and direction; and the people who don’t want guidance can merely go through life without a care, even if they do commit horrible acts. “For those who want morality, there’s morality. Nothing’s handed down in stone.”

This clip shows an interesting juggle between heavy and light material. It begins with our protagonist (after feeling much guilt and paranoia about the crime he’s just committed) returning to his childhood home to feel some sort of return to innocence. And yet, shortly after arriving, he realizes (through the discussion at the dining table), that he cannot escape the questions that are driving him mad. He could be hallucinating the family at the dinner table (who knows?). However, it doesn’t change the fact that nostalgia can’t comfort him, and he has to make a choice. A choice well discussed at the table. Allen’s cynicism comes through strong at the dinner table, where he criticizes religion as a way of keeping yourself in check, establishing a ritual, and less an actual belief in the divine. A very religious character even concludes the clip by saying “If necessary I will always chose God over truth.”


2 responses to “Nostalgia and Cynicism in Crimes and Misdemeanors.

  1. I think it’s fascinating to look at this clip in a psychoanalytical light. It is almost as though the protagonist is able to re-experience the conversations that held profound weight on him as a child that he didn’t fully understand, and then to revisit them as an adult and hear them as they winnow through the filter of his own experiences and opinions.

  2. Leading in the audio when the person talking was shifted created an interesting sense of inclusion amongst the people at the table. When the man at the door speaks, there is silence beforehand and when he’s answered it’s lead in again and he’s included but doesn’t seem to include himself.

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