Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coen Brothers' tale of a struggling folkster trying to make it in the music scene of 1960s Greenwich Village. However, it’s not the film’s protagonist Llewyn that’s getting all the attention – but the cat in his life. In fact, the deeper meaning of the furry feline has enough theories to rival The Shining!
As well as proving to be the only consistent presence in Llewyn’s unstructured life, the cat also plays various other roles. We give you the run down.
“A couple of poor nameless slobs”
The fact that the cat remains nameless for most of the film is reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Holly Golightly is befriended by a similar ginger tom that she calls simply ‘Cat’, and he provides a metaphor for her own nomadic existence.
Eventually we learn that the cat’s name is Ulysses, which brings back memories of O Brother, Where Art Thou? In the Coens’ 2000 film, George Clooney plays Ulysses, based on the cunning character from Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. The cat comes into Llewyn’s life unexpectedly and accompanies him on his own odyssey.
We’re not in Kansas anymore
Similar to Toto in The Wizard of Oz, Ulysses is also symbolic of the protagonist’s inner self, who refuses to be pinned down or kept prisoner. Llewyn can’t seem to keep track of his cat, who comes and goes throughout the film. The cat also helps the audience to empathise with Davis’ somewhat grumpy demeanour.
Some have suggested that the cat represents the directors themselves, pushing the storyline this way and that. Or, as one critic wrote, perhaps the cat is Bob Dylan, whose presence “hovers over the film like the Ghost of Music Future.”
The cat’s meow
As they say in the biz, don’t work with children or animals. Ulysses might have become an integral part of the film (or at least the reviews), but the cat was supposedly more of an afterthought.
As Joel Coen explained at the Cannes Film Festival last May, “The film doesn’t really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that’s why we threw the cat in.” But he lived to regret blithely giving a role to a cat.
Like Uggie in The Artist, last year’s homage to silent cinema, Ulysses has been dubbed something of a scene-stealer. But unlike the well-trained dog, the three rescue cats proved much harder to direct. One of the three cats that played Ulysses even took a swipe at Isaac, leaving his mark on the actor’s face as well as the film!
Are you looking forward to Inside Llewyn Davis? What’s your favourite feline on film? Tell us in the comments.
The film is released on 24 January 2014.