No Country for Old Men

Okay, so I haven’t been blogging. No explanations other than super busy. Moving forward…

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen several films that I think give us a pretty good look at the postmodern sensibility in ways that matter. Probably the most haunting and memorable is the Cohen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” a film I’d been avoiding because I’d seen the trailer, and I knew the bad guy was going to be someone I was going to want to keep out of my head. I finally broke down and watched it about a week ago, and Javier Bardem, as Anton Chigurh, was as bad as I expected, and worse. A man wedded to a set of principles that establish a code of “integrity” to murder and revenge, Anton is a killer in pursuit of drug money wrongly taken in a story that often swerves in seemingly random directions, introducing interesting characters for little reason other than to brutally do away with them.  “You don’t have to do this,” the victims keep saying.  Sorry, but yes…he does.  Tommy Lee Jones, as the near-retired Texas law man in pursuit of Anton, gives valiant chase for awhile, but the further he goes, the more he realizes the rules of the game have drastically changed. The evil of the movie wants to reduce action and choice to a coin toss, but one poor woman caught up in the maelstrom of death refuses to play the coin toss game, looks the killer straight in the eye, and tells him the coin has nothing to do with it. “It’s just you,” she says (or something like that), but even as you nod in agreement, there’s a pile of things in the movie to remind you that not all is explainable in this world. But once we thought the explainable outweighed the mysterious.

Maybe not anymore.

This is the first film to have stayed with me with this kind of power in a long time. Finally, though, the more I reflect on it, the more I sense that something is not quite true here. Randomness and unexplainable events are certainly prisms through which we experience life, but the linkages between choice, character, action, and patterns of outcome are observably strong. Though collisions of circumstances and lives often catch us by surprise with no discernible explanation, it doesn’t naturally follow that there is therefore no reason, no meaning, no cause and effect, to our lives. Not that the Coen brothers are arguing this, but a life in which evil is randomly seeking out victims in unpredictable ways unconnected to character and choice is a much more frightening world than a world of sin and its predictable results.

Made me dream dark dreams…

3 Comments

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  1. i’ve been avoiding the film for pretty much the same reasons you articulated. have you seen “the dark knight” yet? how does it’s portrayal of evil compare to this film? i’d love to hear your thoughts . . .

  2. I thought that was a great film as well, which was surprising since I hadn’t read McCarthy’s book before watching it (and thus missed what I’m sure were a lot of nuances in the story). I have read “The Road,” which is one of the most bleak stories ever — and completely enthralling. I’ve heard that they are going to be making a film of that book as well, so I’m curious to see how they tackle the story.

  3. Non-summative wholes. It’s what I’ve been reading about so I’m facinated by this film for several reasons.

    Most fascinating is that I’ve not seen the film. Yet the reactions I see from folks seem to be the most visceral and strong that I can recall about any film. This causes me to ask, what does this reaction say about humankind? Why does a species feel so strongly in certain specific ways about this film?

    I’m intrigued to find out the non-summative whole that is this film. It’s place in our time. It’s relevance to things happening right now. I’m curious and hope to discover much as I continue to study this whole-ality that is the film and the resonance of it in humankind in real space and time.

    It seems to generally get the “best-worst” film ever rating from everyone.

    I heard one girl say something to the effect that she is now afraid that Javier Bardem is going to kill her. Not seriously of course but she freely acknowledges that her poor mind is now helpless but to be terrfied of a thing it formerly wasn’t.

    I’m also fascinated by the method of killing Bardem’s character chooses. I find a sobering irony in the fact that cattle are killed the same way every day. That may sound a little absurdist and
    if cows could speak and think abstractly, how would they view the same entitlement “we” have on their lives that Anton has on those he kills?

    If killing or taking life is ok? Is it ok across the board with every living thing? Or if one is going to die anyway, what’s the worry? Why do humans cling to life so tenaciously? Why is it ok to kill one way but not another? Why is it ok for one living thing to die brutally and senselessly but not ok for another to die that way? Why is it that death is only ok if it happens in your sleep or in a blaze of glory? I don’t know, but it sure will be fun (i hope grin/blush) to find out.

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