-another Coen character, two decades earlier
And the movie ends the exact same way it started.
People have wondered - is he stuck in a Groundhog Day loop? Is the dissolve to the cat the point the movie dabbles with SciFi? (Knowing the Coens’ penchant for dabbling in multiple genres, this does seem likely to a lot)
Well, here’s my two cents on it.
Pain is addictive.
People today still cut themselves to achieve a release through pain. Models starve themselves to tick off an ideal body checklist. Method actors leave the love of their lives to achieve the tortured expressions required for the audience.
And what will it bring about? The deliberate infliction of pain will destroy you, slowly but surely. You will achieve what you wanted, lose it, and cause yourself further pain. In your depression, you will push away the people you love to avoid being hurt, which will cause loneliness, which will cause further depression.
Pain is a vicious cycle.
And that is what the seeming cyclic structure forsees for Llewyn. A lot of folk music is inherently about dissatisfaction, depression, loneliness. He can’t manufacture the emotions required, he would consider that selling out. So he’ll deprive himself, prevent himself from committing, refuse to bare his soul.
Would he have been better at handling himself, if he did ultimately find success? Maybe, maybe not. Llewyn was never the type to take pride in selling out. So he’ll keep punishing himself for a failure he isn’t responsible for. That will fuel his art, but the world won’t be ready for it. And he’ll slip further down into depression.
And so, the cycle continues.