The Man Who Wasn't There

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The Man Who Wasn't There is a 2001 film about a laconic, chain-smoking barber who blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but whose plan goes terribly wrong.

Directed by Joel Coen. Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
The last thing on his mind is murder. tagline

Ed Crane[edit]

  • Me, I don't talk much. I just cut the hair.
  • I lived in a little bungalow on Napa Street. The place was OK, I guess. It had an electric ice box, gas hearth, and a garbage grinder built into the sink. You might say I had it made.
  • Sooner or later everyone needs a haircut.
  • I sat in the house, but there was nobody there. I was a ghost; I didn't see anyone. No one saw me. I was the barber.
  • Time slows down right before an accident, and I had time to think about things. I thought about what an undertaker had told me once - that your hair keeps growing, for a while anyway, after you die, and then it stops. I thought, "What keeps it growing? Is it like a plant in soil? What goes out of the soil? The soul? And when does the hair realize that it's gone?"
  • [about his lawyer's courtroom speech] And then it was Riedenschneider's turn. I gotta hand it to him, he tossed a lot of sand in their eyes. He talked about how I'd lost my place in the universe; how I was too ordinary to be the criminal mastermind the D.A. made me out to be; how there was some greater scheme at work that the state had yet to unravel. And he threw in some of the old "truth" stuff he hadn't had a chance to trot out for Doris. He told them to look at me, look at me close. That the closer they looked, the less sense it would all make; that I wasn't the kind of guy to kill a guy; that I was The Barber, for Christsake. I was just like them - an ordinary man. Guilty of living in a world that had no place for me, yeah. Guilty of wanting to be a dry cleaner, sure. But not a murderer. He said I was modern man, and if they voted to convict me, well, they'd be practically cinching the noose around their own necks. He told them to look, not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaning. It was a pretty good speech. It even had me going until Frankie interrupted it.
  • Yeah, I guess I'm sorry about the pain I caused other people, but I don't regret anything. I used to. I used to regret being the barber.
  • I don't know where I'm being taken. I don't know what waits for me beyond the earth and sky. Maybe the things I don't understand will be clearer there, like when a fog blows away. Maybe Doris will be there, and maybe there I can tell her all those things they don't have words for here.

Freddy Riedenschneider[edit]

  • One more thing: you keep your mouth shut. I get the lay of the land. I tell you what to say. No talking out of school. What's out of school? Everything's out of school. I do the talking. You keep your trap shut. I'm an attorney. You're a barber. You don't know anything. Understood?
  • I litigate. I don't capitulate.
  • They got this guy in Germany, Fritz Something-or-other. Or is it? Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got this theory. You wanna test something, you know, scientifically - how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap. Well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes you look at it, your looking changes it. You can't know the reality of what happened, or what would've happened if you hadn't-a stuck in your own goddamn schnozz. So there is no "what happened," not in any sense that we can grasp with our puny minds, because our minds — our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the "Uncertainty Principle." Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy's on to something.
  • The more you look, the less you really know.


  • Jacques Carcanogues: [to Ed, after Birdy's piano audition] Nice girl. Someday, I think, maybe, she make a very good typist.
  • Birdy Abundas: You know what you are? An enthusiast.
  • Ann Nirdlinger Brewster: Knowledge can be a curse.


Ed: Was that a pass?
Creighton Tolliver: Maybe.
Ed: Well you're out of line, mister... way out of line

Ed: Frank.
Frank: Huh?
Ed: This hair.
Frank: Yeah.
Ed: You ever wonder about it?
Frank: Whuddya mean?
Ed: I don't know... How it keeps on coming. It just keeps growing.
Frank: Yeah-lucky for us, huh, pal?
Ed: No, I mean it's growing, it's part of us. And we cut it off. And we throw it away.
Frank: Come on, Eddie, you're gonna scare the kid.
Ed: ...I'm gonna take his hair and throw it out in the dirt.
Frank: What the...
Ed: I'm gonna mingle it with common house dirt.
Frank: What the hell are you talking about?
Ed: I don't know. Skip it.


  • The last thing on his mind is murder.


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