Note: This brief post will also spoil the gist of the end of Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Woody fooled me. I was sure that this movie was going to end essentially in the same way as Crimes and Misdemeanors--that Abe would get away with the crime and live happily ever after. Woody clearly set the stage for that.
I love the twist to this movie. By having Abe pay the ultimate price for his crimes while Judah gets away with his crime completely, Woody makes his ultimate point about the lack of any guiding order or meaning or cosmic justice in the universe all the more effectively. After all, if the murderer always gets away with it and always thrives in the end, that would be pointing to its own kind of (sick) order to the universe. The two films together, though, highlight not that the universe is good or bad, or just or unjust, but even more chillingly, completely random. It's not out to get us, it doesn't care about us at all. There is no "it." The film isn't subtle, of course, with the camera focusing in on the flashlight to hammer home the role of chance. If Jill had chosen a stuffed tiger instead of a flashlight, she might well have been the one to die instead of Abe.
I love Woody for raising these kinds of questions. For me, it's not about whether I necessarily agree or disagree with the positions Woody's films suggest. Just the fact that he's using his movies to wrestle with these kinds of questions sets him apart. Woody is obviously fascinated by the big questions. He keeps saying that they don't matter, but it's a case of protesting too much. He admits this in interviews, too. He's gripped by these questions even while concluding in the end that it's all a waste of time. He thinks it's irrational to think about this stuff but he can't help it.