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Commentary on Woody Allen's film Crimes and Misdemeanors

Updated on June 18, 2013

Woody Allen's Film Crimes and Misdemeanors: A character analysis


Crimes and Misdemeanors is a cerebral film laced with philosophical drifts of morality. One of the characters in the film, Judah, has an ego which is suffering over the gambits between his id and super-ego. Judah’s ego attempts to find a common ground between the two. However, Judah’s super-ego doesn’t hold enough influence to make him behave in a moral way. Instead, Judah makes an immoral choice which ends up haunting him as his super-ego plagues him with guilt for his misdeed. The torment he suffers from his decision fades though. Judah eventually accepts the concept that morality is subjective as he escapes punishment for his crime.


At one point, in the film, Judah recalls his father speaking of basic goodness within humans. Is it possible that the super-ego may be compared to an inherent synergism? Yet, if this is the case why is there an id? Is that where free-will lies, or the impulses towards vice? Whatever the case, my understanding is that Freud wished for people to break through the moral barriers of the super-ego and allow more power to the id through the ego. Yet, does this then mean that people decide their own morality and God shall be flushed, or people may chose to flush God but suffer the consequences later if there are any? I certainly do not know. However, I would prefer to err on the side of caution and behave in a moral fashion.


Sections of Crimes and Misdemeanors correlate with writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson made the case that true men do not conform to society. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, Cliff was an unconventional director. His works were based on things he deemed important, whereas Lester created things which appealed to the masses. Yet, Lester was highly successful and Cliff certainly was not. However, perhaps Cliff’s brilliance would have been recognized later (maybe when his life expired). In any case, Cliff remained true to himself regardless of society’s desires. Emerson also claims that virtues are often only a penance. This is reflected in Judah’s philanthropic activities. Judah may really just have been trying to make up for his financial improprieties and adultery. In addition, Emerson describes travelling as an unwise escape from life’s reality. Judah’s mistress, Delores tries to convince Judah to go on a trip with her as a way for her to deny that their relationship has faded. Unfortunately, she did not seem to realize that their troubles were not going to dissipate by attempting to evade them.


While Judha is discussing his plight over Delores with a friend he ponders questions similar to those that Job asked of God. He wonders if what Delores is doing to him is what he justly deserves. However, Job did not sin against God, and Judah committed adultery with Delores. In Job’s situation, Emerson would probably say that he should follow his heart. Job did do this by confronting God, and asking him what he had done to deserve the misfortunes bestowed upon him. Also, Job did not heed his friends argument that he must have done something to offend God, because he knew it to be incorrect. Job was also a nonconformist which Emerson would most likely appreciate. Job did not concern himself with other people’s criticisms and spoke his mind freely. He did not conceal his transgressions from others. He openly admitted them and repented. Whereas, other people would have done their utmost to mask their transgressions, rather like Judah did.


Crimes and Misdemeanors is an excellent thought-provoking film with many layers of symbolism and various philosophical themes. Emerson provides many poignant and enlightening concepts which can be applied to this film, as well as human life. However, what I appreciate the most from Emerson is his deep respect for nature and how enlightening it can be to study it. There is nothing more peaceful than basking in the beauty of nature while contemplating the cycles of life and how they are reflected in all living things.


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      Sanne 

      3 years ago

      If your aretilcs are always this helpful, "I'll be back."

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