Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Ending for “No Country”


So I was telling a writer friend of mine about the Act Two Climax & Third Act decisions the Coen brothers made for their film, No Country for Old Men. (“Okay, stop right there, MM. They didn’t make those decisions about the story. Everything in the film happened that way in the book.” The Coens are responsible for their film. They didn’t have to follow the book chapter and verse as they did, but they chose to do so. Everything we see in the film is the result of all the decisions the Coens made for their film, including the plot.)

Anyway, I told this friend of mine about the movie and Moss, the protagonist, who finds two million dollars of dirty money; about Chigurh, the brutally evil antagonist with the brutally evil haircut who is hot on his trails; and Ed Tom Bell, the concerned yet, ineffective, sheriff. And this plot, as it always must, leads up to the inevitable Act Two showdown between Moss and Chigurh. So what happens, you ask yourself as you watch the film... Does he kill Chigurh? Does he get to keep the money? Or will the Sheriff step in to hand down some old school western justice? We don’t see it. We’re robbed of the showdown. We learn that Moss is dead. He got killed in a scene that took place off-screen. All we see are the police cars, the flashing lights, and the yellow tape in front of two hotel rooms. Moss’s wife shows up, bursts into tears, and hugs Bell. That’s it. In the next scene, Bell visits Moss in the mortuary. We’re not even allowed to see his face. Then, Chigurh hunts down Moss’s wife and kills her when she returns home from the funeral. After that, he gets away. The last image is of Bell babbling in his dining room about his dreams. Fade out.

Do you know what my friend said?

“That is so wrong.”

She’s a published author, by the way. Did she say that because she only wants to watch formulaic films over and over? Hardly. Perhaps it was because those decisions are so outrageous, they go against everything we hold dear about storytelling? Hmm. Of course, there’s much more to the ending than what I wrote, but I believe this is how most people around the country are reacting to the film. I’ve read (and received) comments about audiences walking out of the theater put off by the anti-climactic ending. Immediately following the fade out in my own screening, I heard a teenage girl yell out, “What? What was that?” The fanboys have also been quite vocal about their displeasure. Mr. Massawyrm wrote, “But it is all wasted. Every bit of it. Because no matter how great everyone is, no matter how tight the dialog, hell, no matter how good the story is as it chugs along, it never makes up for the monumental suck that is the third act. Anyone who was hoping for the triumphant return of the Coen's are gonna be let down something fierce. It's like having great sex but never being allowed to cum.” So, apparently, audiences around the country are leaving theaters grumbling angrily about not cumming in a film that’s sitting pretty with a 96% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

What’s a screenwriter to think about these things?

I’ve seen the film twice. There have been good articles about it, but I don’t think they’ve really nailed the story (to my satisfaction) just yet. Look, the Coens are hucksters in the way they love to bend, break, and defy genre expectations. That’s what they live for. And need I remind you that before this production, they were still feeling the sting of two bad films under their belts (Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers) and they were looking to do something outrageous to get themselves back in the spotlight again. So what’s more outrageous than killing off the hero and letting the bad guy get away? It’s folly, my friends, FOLLY, I say, to attribute any deeper meaning to the film than that. They don’t care about making statements. That's not what they’re about. We already know from the podcast interview that what appealed to them most about adapting this book was the fact that the protag dies in the Act Two climax. Hell, that appeals to me, too.

The “No Country” novel bends genre conventions because it’s setup as a western / thriller but then it defies every expectation by ending as a tragedy. And tragedies are always moral tales because they emphasize the circumstances that lead up to the tragedy so that we will hopefully take those lessons to heart and avoid the same mistakes. This is a moral tale in the same sense that Barton Fink was a moral tale about the rise of Nazism and a warning to writers like Fink who sell out while telling themselves they’re doing the right thing “while the holocaust approaches and the nice guy next door turns out to be a monster.”

So how is this a moral tale? What the dramatic structure does, in essence, is condemn Moss for his greed and pursuit of a bunch of dirty money that he knows will bring him nothing but trouble. What they’re saying, basically, is that a good man (or even a halfway good man) who dabbles in a little evil has no hope of defeating those who are truly evil at their own game of killing for money. Despite the fact that Moss was a Vietnam vet, which perhaps fed his own self-deception about being able to deal with this, he was too inexperienced and too weak – he was too good, in fact – to compete with the likes of Chigurh. You may recall how Moss returned to the scene of the crime because he felt sorry for the Mexican asking for “agua.” Do you think Chigurh would’ve done that? Common sense tells you the poor man would’ve been dead by the time he got back there anyway, but hey, Moss is a decent man. While he’s knows he’s about “to do somethin’ dumber than hell,” he’s going to do it anyway, and he’s nearly killed for it. Yet, in a strange twist, going back was also the thing that almost saved him.


Of course, everyone’s noticed how the Coens made connections throughout the film between Moss and Chigurh (they both pay a huge sum for a shirt that would hide their open wounds, they both shoot at animals that get away, they both say “hold still,” and they both have bad haircuts. Hehehe…). Those connections, I think, were meant to show that Moss’s actions were the beginnings of a personal descent into evil and the inevitable, awful end to that road, the worst outcome imaginable for Moss, is to become like Chigurh. They’re connected because Moss is headed down a path that Chigurh already walked long ago. (At least, that would be the only reason why I’d make connections like that.) Plus, we know that Moss isn’t about to give up that money. Thus, the road to hell is already laid out before him. At the end of that road is Chigurh – literally and figuratively. Ultimately, it’s better for Moss to die than to live with the money. It’s a great decision. Besides, imagine how miserable his life would be if his step-mother found out he came into money and was rich? Oy vey…

So Moss dies. This was actually setup a few times with Bell’s warnings to Moss’s wife that the man is “in over his head,” which we dismiss as typical, genre dialogue, but here Bell’s words are prophetic. Not only that, letting Moss die off-screen, I think, makes a cinematic statement about the sheer inevitability of his death. It’s as if they were saying, “It was so conclusive and so obvious he would die that it wasn’t even worth filming.” That’s how strongly they felt about how Moss had no chance at all against Chigurh. (Personally, I would’ve shown it. It’s a cheap trick to lead the audience on with a traditional thriller narrative and then pull the rug out from underneath them. Besides, showing Moss’s death would’ve punctuated the tragedy even further.)

Of course, there is evidence that what happened at the hotel was more complicated than a simple battle between Moss and Chigurh. The crime scene was a huge mess. It’s possible that the Mexicans had learned about the money and killed Moss first. Then Chigurh showed up, killed the woman by the pool, as well as the Mexicans, but then the heat became too much and he fled. (Remember all that shooting going on in the street when Bell arrived?) Then, Chigurh returned to the room later to collect the money, which is why he was in the room next door when Bell returned to the crime scene of the hotel room. (Chigurh was not in the same room as Bell. He was next door. When Bell returns to the crime scene at the motel, we’re shown two hotel doors and a yellow crime tape across both rooms. After Bell enters the room and walks around, he turns on the lights and sits on the bed. You can see the door. Chigurh is not in the room. He’s next door. He’s always next door. I suspect we caught him right before he was about to leave and he chose to wait it out in order to keep it quiet.)

But back to my point. Moss dies unexpectedly, and we, as an audience, emotionally cling to Bell, the ineffective sheriff, hoping that he will finally bring some justice to Chigurh. I love this trick of killing the protag and then clinging to a supporting character like Bell. Hey, who better to take down Chigurh than a bad ass Tommy Lee Jones in a big cowboy hat? His character even comes from a long line of old school lawmen. He was born for this moment, man! But, alas, those are pipe dreams. Bell is so gob-smacked by the horrors of Chigurh’s nature that he goes into retirement and babbles on about his dreams to his wife.

Chigurh would escape, only to be sidetracked temporarily by a car accident. Chigurh had the green light, didn’t he? This was out of his control, a random accident setup in the narrative by all those talks about flipping the coin and thus, subtextual conversations about fate and chance of which he would become a victim. (By the way, I didn’t entirely agree with Matt Zoller Seitz about Chigurh flipping the coin out of guilt. He was a simple gambling addict. He so perfectly inhabited evil and was such a masterful expert at killing people that the only way he could find vicarious thrills in life was by gambling with other people’s lives. It also gave him a sense of validation about what he was doing. He lived by a rule book, which is why he thought he had to kill Moss’s wife, but when it wasn’t in the rules in his mind, he left it up to chance to give him permission (and validate his need) to kill. You gotta love Moss’s wife for refusing to “call it.” She wasn’t going to play by his stupid games. She wasn’t going to give her life up on a coin toss, and let “chance” or “fate” decide if she lives or dies. She was strong enough to say “no” to Chigurh so that in his mind he knew that her blood would be on his hands because he chose to kill her outside of his own rules and without the thrill of a gambler’s rush.)

By the way, there are some legitimate complaints to be made about the characters. They could’ve had more depth. I liked what Stephen Hunter said in The Washington Post:

“You can't say it cuts to the chase. There was never anything to cut from to the chase. It's all chase, which means that it offers almost zero in character development. Each figure is given, a la standard thriller operating procedure, a single moral or psychological attribute and then acts in accordance to that principle and nothing else, without doubts, contradictions or ambivalence. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the laconic vet who finds the stash, is pure Stubbornness. His main pursuer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in Robert Wagner's haircut from "Prince Valiant"), is Death, without a pale horse. Subsidiary chaser Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is Pride, or possibly Folly. Tommy Lee Jones appears in the role of Melancholy Wisdom; he's a lawman also trying to find Llewelyn but not very hard. He'd much rather address the camera and soliloquize on the sorry state of affairs of mankind, though if he says anything memorable, I missed it.”

But back again to my point about Bell. The fact that Bell doesn’t give us any justice in the end cuts the heart even deeper than losing Moss. Why would they do it this way? They already bent the rules by killing the protag. Wasn’t that enough? Did they really have to let Chigurh get away, too, and make us sit through ramblings about loss of money or love of a father from a weak, emasculated, old man who can’t do his fucking job any more? This decision about the ending and Bell is, I think, rooted in not only the motivations of the Coens to do something outrageous for the sake of attention but also the motivations of Cormac McCarthy. You can get away with a lot more in a novel than a screenplay because you can write beautifully about things happening off-screen and the reader won’t mind. That doesn’t usually translate into great cinema. But the final scenes in the novel could have been more about McCarthy than it was about the story itself and could have been about McCarthy’s identification with Sheriff Bell’s inability to come to terms with the evils of the modern world, of a longing for a time past when men had honor and codes of conduct, and a desire to hold dear what’s truly valuable in this evil world. In one review of the book, William Deresiewicz said of the ending:

“As the novel nears its end, however, Bell’s very doubts about the value of his life’s work become the excuse for an affirmation of timeworn verities: the endurance of truth, the existence of God, the nihilism of unbelief, the goodness of the old ways. The sheriff is clearly McCarthy’s mouthpiece here, and so we find the erstwhile apostle of ignorance giving us chapter and verse about what to believe and how… What Bell is confronting, we’re told again and again, is a new kind of evil. Apparently the Old West, like the rest of human history, was just one big family. Like Waugh, again, McCarthy has forgotten that his critique of modernity is only a subset of his critique of humanity. And the problem with the present, apparently, isn’t just drugs, it’s also abortion, kids with green hair and the loss of good manners. McCarthy the conservative has conscripted McCarthy the artist for service in the culture wars, and the result turns out about as happily as such arrangements usually do.”

Personally, (thanks to Jim who pointed this out) I think Bell’s dreams were nothing more than a hint at what would be McCarthy’s next novel, “The Road,” “a post-apocalyptic novel about a father carrying the fire to keep his son alive in a world of desolation.”

Which means that those dreams were not really about the story.

When it comes to the ending, I think you have to ask yourself, “By going against convention and denying everyone the satisfaction of justice, what truth is being illuminated?”

And anyone who really tries to search for that answer as it relates to No Country For Old Men will go down a thought process that dabbles in extreme nihilism that will never be true.

But you see, it was never about deeper meaning or making nihilistic statements about the world. It was about doing something outrageous and whatever people got out of it, they got out of it. But defying conventions makes statements whether it’s intended or not. And the nihilistic statements that are inevitably being made with this ending are wrong and critics should’ve been more vocal about it. But the Coens are forgiven because the first two-thirds of the film are so undeniably spectacular. On the other hand, the ending offers a crumbling, smalltown midwest authority figure that cannot come to terms with the bigger contemporary evils of life, left floundering and failing, which practically strokes the snobbery of big city movie critics who can’t help but agree ("Yes, that's true! That's true! No smalltown midwest authority figure could possibly be smart enough to grasp the contemporary evils of our time!"), and they can use their positions as all-important critics to explain to the benighted masses (which they have failed to do, I might add
) why we should love a story where the "hero" gets killed and the "bad guy" gets away and there is no "justice" in this world except cosmically hilarious moments of "chance." Is it any wonder people today won’t listen to critics?

Only the Coens can get away with that. I have one piece of advice to give to newbie screenwriters who might be studying this script:

Don’t try this at home.



Anonymous said...

If you go back and watch Blood Simple or Fargo, you'll notice how beautifully those two movies succeed as films that could play both at the art cinema and the drive-in. They do right by Academy voters and the Joe Bob Briggs of the world alike.

No Country For Old Men definitely veers away and leaves Joe Bob in the dust for the last 15 minutes and becomes art for the sake of art. I thought it was sloppy storytelling and probably would not even recommend the film as a result of it.

Mystery Man said...

Hey Joe, I would definitely tell people to see the film, but it's not "perfect" as Emerson wrote. The ending's VERY debatable. But the craftsmanship of the first two-thirds of the film, the dialogue, the scenes, the cinematography, the editing, the visuals - I mean, it's pure heaven.

It's a fun debate.


Mim said...

I like how you wrapped it up. "Don't try this at home." We keep telling them and telling them, and they still want to be Tarantino or a Coen brother.

Christian H. said...

This kind of makes you wonder if a movie is the satisfaction of the ending or the value of the entertainment throughout.

Anonymous said...

Everything makes sense now. I don’t care how good the first two-thirds are...if the ending is horrible, you’ll leave a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth, and then everything that came before the ending will not matter. All people will remember is that shitty ending that pisses them off.

Also, I’ve already have tried something similar to this. A year ago I outlined a story that had the main protagonist dieing at the end of the second act. Then the supporting character comes in the third act and captures the antagonist. However, the twist is they are both assassinated in a hotel room. It was a political caper set in Russia. Anyway, I never wrote a draft. Why? My story was too dark. I couldn’t find a way to add any hope, which is where I think the Coens got it wrong. I think the dark ending would’ve worked if Bell delivered some hope. With hope, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. There is always hope.

Having said all that, I want to see the movie now.

Anonymous said...

It really does highlight our need for closure. John Sayles was equally maligned for the ending of his film 'Limbo'.

There seems to be an enevitablility for Chiguhr to succeed. Evil doesn't hesitate or consider the consequences. I didn't mind at all that I didn't see Moss die. I also think that the Coens knew that showing his death that late in the film would have caused a riot with the audience who is seeking closure. (It certainly plays to one rule of screenwriting - break the audiences expectations)

Here is the opening dialogue of the film:

The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure.
It's not that I'm afraid of it.
I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this
job--not to be glorious. But I don't want to push my chips
forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.
You can say it's myjob to fight it but I don't know what it
is anymore.
... More than that, I don't want to know. A man would
have to put his soul at hazard.
. . . He would have to say, okay, I'll be part of this world.

This does provide some insight into the theme of the film and highlights Bell's impotence in the film. Does he represent our point of view? Our lack of desire to confront the evil in the world and the evil in man? Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil...

Moss, having served in the war, has the courage to confront it as he has seen this evil before and thinks he can beat it. Yet, for us and Bell, it's much more preferable to ignore it and not let it be a part of our world. In the end, it is there and it is real and, in some opinions, it cannot be defeated.

Whether or not the Coens are having fun at our expense or they have a theme or philosophy, the film is there to be interpreted. Modern audiences are hostile to this kind of unsettling monkeying around with classic structure. I think Anthony Minghella's 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' was disliked as it didn't follow the rules of conventional thrillers but sought to be a character study in the guise of the thriller. It was the cornerstone Altman's films as well. The Coens seem to be less interested in plot in this film and more interested in the concept of evil.

Anyway it goes, it has made for some good discussion.

Anonymous said...

It is inevitable that Blogger will allow you to edit your comments after the fact…

Unknown said...

I think the key point about the ending of this AND the fact that it's underperforming at the box office is that they discrespected their general public with the story. In the real world, the bad guy wins most of the time and us folks that work hard just to keep our noses above water are continually getting screwed by these bad guys, whether they be business execs or politicians or just the asshole that keyed my car at the grocery store. Plus there's no end to it. Doesn't matter what we do, these bad guys are going to keep getting away with it.

When we see a movie most of us want to see the bad guys get their just desserts and we need to have closure. We don't want to go see a story where the bad guy keeps sticking it to us AND there's no fucking end to it. Hell, if you wanted to see a story about that, just let me tell you about my week!!

In all honesty, I think this story is just another example of HUBRIS overtaking an artist. (have we seen this theme on this blog before?) I doubt anybody'd going to tell the Coens that they can't do that, that they can't let the bad guy walk at the end, that the good guy can't die for no good reason. Sure the story is well told, the cinematography is breathtaking. But, they didn't CARE about their audience, they didn't care about what I wanted to see.

Okay, I'm off the soapbox, have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

They do say that art imitates life and American films seem to be in a similar cycle it was in during the Vietnam War. There is a questioning of values that is healthy in a society and the filmmakers are reflecting some of the feelings and dialogue that people are having.

Wait until it ends and we head back into the realm of 1980's cinema - all feel good and empty. I enjoy films that challenge the conventions and make you look at things with a different slant.
It doesn't have to all be escapism. God knows there is enough of that.

Joshua James said...

Just saw it tonight.

Loved it. Loved it.

Shocked when things came to a turn, but also put me on my toes . . . because now, now I didn't know what was gonna happen.

I had no idea how it would end. And it thrilled me.

I agree with much of your breakdown, but for me, the ending worked for what it was . . . yep. bold, it was bold, it wasn't MILLER'S CROSSING where the hero gets away with it all, but then again, it's supposed to be a country where old men can't compete, right?

Loved it.

Laura Deerfield said...

I loved the film. I loved the ending... mostly. The only part I didn't like was literally the last moment. The sudden cut to black, rather than a slow fade. I think that single second probably put off a lot of people. The suddenness of it leaves you feeling as if the movie didn't end but simply stopped. Of course, that can be purposeful, as a means of underscoring the idea that this dynamic we've just watched simply continues.

Surely those who are saying that the Coens somehow betrayed the audience don't think that every film has to have a happy, or even just a neat ending? Is it just the fact that the hero doesn't win that leaves so many of you unhappy? I would hate for that to be a requirement for good storytelling.

There wasn't even a hero in this film, so having the hero win was never an option. It's clear well before the mid-way point that there are no heroes here.

Whether it's because of the the filmmakers, or the novelist, this film does have a message. The message is about the inevitability of evil, yes. But the message was also that there has always been evil - there in the borderlands. (And I love the use of the borderlands and the stark landscape, the crossing and recrossing of borders, reflects the theme.) That there have always been good men taken down without good reason. The only thing that matters is our response to it. And yes, most of us are overwhelmed at times by it.

Yes, one of the functions of stories is to offer us closure. Another can be to shake us up and make us think. Another can be to just make us feel, in raw and unabashed terms, the things we mute in our daily lives because the real versions of them are too painful to face. And for me, that's the kind of story we have here. Not one that gives us a fairytale version of our lives - but one that's even more raw and more gritty and more painful - so that we can feel the grit and pain.

Yes, the ending of this film (and the novel) is uncomfortable. And for it to be anything other than that would have been a betrayal of the entire story. How would you have ended it?

Laura Deerfield said...

A few more thoughts:

Chigur is evil - less a character than a force. The story here is what happens to various people when they come in contact with evil.

One is tempted, drawn in, and tries to defeat it on its own terms.

One doesn't quite manage to risk his soul, and in the end is spared his life - but also never really finds his soul.

One simply refuses to play, and while she's killed, she maintains her integrity in a way the others don't.

For this story, this was the right ending. More than the last 15 minutes would have to change if it were to end any other way.

Mystery Man said...

Great comments. I really loved reading 'em.

I'm just going to play devil's advocate. So tell me, would this have really been a lesser film if Tommy Lee took down Chigurh? Or if we had something else besides Tommy Lee babbling about his dreams in the final scene?


Anonymous said...

Would that mean that it is a country for old men? That justice prevails? That we can defeat the evil in our world?

It would alter the thematic elements of the film. The wife would be spared her fate and we would have our happy view of the universe confirmed.

Laura Deerfield said...

Not lesser, no - just very different. The Tommy Lee character would have to be significantly different much earlier in the film. He would have to be someone who engages with that world that scares him - and he's never that. He's aways a step back from it. Safe, and even insightful, but not effective.

Mystery Man said...

Let me ask more questions:

Is it strange that the "No Country For Old Men" is a theme about a supporting character?

The title could've also been an insult Chigurl hurled at Bell and he proves that old men still have a place in this country... Is that so wrong?

Laura Deerfield said...

Interesting. Hadn't thought about it. But I think that just reflects the character's alienation.

Mystery Man said...

I have another question. Have we reached a point in cinema history where we have to have THIS kind of ending in order to be original?


Anonymous said...

Your question suggests that the Coens created this kind of ending to be 'original' when their intent may have been to satisfy the story they were telling (and be faithful to the book - not that that's required).

I wonder if this is that original anyway. Certainly European films have played with the form much more than North American films. We are accustomed to the tried and true methods of the three act structure but not every country follows this. European films have been known to be more interested in character than plot - look at films like 'Blow Up' or '8 1/2'. There is an element of story but the films are much less driven by the plot and more driven by ideas or characters.

Originality comes from the details of the story. We've seen the 'guy finds cash, bad guys come looking' story before ('A Simple Plan', 'Shallow Grave') but it's originality is in the unfolding of the specific story with original chracters. I think the question you asked suggested that the Coens were doing it 'to be original' and I think the question is flawed!

So my answer is... no. As Mamet says: "answer the question in a way that is both surprising and inevitable". Seems to me that it was inevitable that the killing machine would prevail. Not pleasant, but inevitable.

Mystery Man said...

Damn good comment. Loved it.


Joshua James said...

Mark said what I wanted to . . . but yeah, it ain't that original of an ending . . . it's pretty common in storytelling, really . . . it's just not something many audiences are used to in storytelling . . .

But in a lot of native american folktales, it's very common, among other areas . . . and also Larry McMurty plays with that type of ending / story in many of his books . . . I found it quite fitting, myself.

Be interested, after your reaction to this third act, what you're gonna think of FUNNY GAMES . . . I've seen the original and plan to stay away from the remake, but look forward to hearing your thoughts on it . . .

Rusty James said...

When asked 'what's it about?' by friends I find myself saying: a sweeping, muse on taking chances in life and how 'chance' rarely succeeds.

The ending came as a surprise as I was zoned-out after finding a pimple on my forearm. Thinking: I never get pimples on my forearm... The screen went black, and I had missed the entire soliloquy...

The film did remind me that film is about storytelling-- something one is hard pressed to find these days.

Cool post.

Mystery Man said...

You're very kind, man. Thanks. 2007 has turned out to be one of the most interesting years in movies in a couple of years. I mean, you had more unsympathetic protags than probably ever before, and here, we get a protag killed OFF SCREEN! That's cool.


Digg said...

I realize this is an old post and is probably "dead" in the eyes of most... but I'm leaving this comment because I have a viewpoint that doesn't seem to have yet been expressed in the "No-Country-protag-killed-off-screen" discussion. Would love to hear your thoughts on it, MM.
Moss isn't just killed off screen. He's killed moments before the Sheriff arrives on the scene. to me, this all helped to illustrate the frustration felt by this "supporting character". It allows us, as an audience, to feel slighted and impotent to do anything about the guy's death right along with him. Hell, we couldn't even WATCH it! This reflects the impotence of the Sheriff in his quest to help Moss.
To me, this could also be the motivation behind the sudden jarring cut used at the end of the film. As Laura illustrates, it makes you feel as if there's more to be seen, but we don't get to watch it. The story goes on.
A writing tenant that I've always held close to me is that most every story is simply a snapshot or portion of a person's life. I try to imagine what shaped my characters and their world... the world I'm writing... before my particular story began, and of course, how that world and those people will be shaped by the events I'm shining a spotlight on now.
Most people imagine the worlds within the movies they watch ending when the credits roll. They're happy with the 90 minute distraction they've been given and that's that. Then there are fan-boys that go to the opposite extreme and imagine epic worlds and characters down to minute detail in order to distract them from reality for an extended period of time.
This film serves neither of those masters. It examines things that have been around and will continue to be so. One of those things is the emotional toll that comes from facing factors that are tragic or unsatisfying, and yet are out of your control. What better way to express that filmically than to actually make an audience member participate by feeling it for themselves.

Mystery Man said...

"It examines things that have been around and will continue to be so. One of those things is the emotional toll that comes from facing factors that are tragic or unsatisfying, and yet are out of your control. What better way to express that filmically than to actually make an audience member participate by feeling it for themselves."

Nice! I liked it! Good job!

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth:

The ending is perfect - What I derived from Bell's dream is a metaphor for his father waiting for him in the afterlife making a fire...then he woke up. Literally and Figuratively. Also, I think audiences take the protag for granted, and I love it when a film pops up and reminds us that they can die, that we aren't guaranteed a happy ending.

That said, i'm a novice and stand under correction.

Mystery Man said...

Anon - Hey, I respect that opinion. There's nothing wrong with that. Great to meet you.


DH said...

To follow up comments by Rich.

I completely agree. What the story lacked was a satifying ending but I think that was totally intentional.

I can think of only one other example (The Wire) that has used this device. What the Coen's were trying to was recreate the feeling of loss and injustice you feel when someone dies, I think they suceeded admirably.
Robbing you of closure is exactly what happens in real life - this is the truth to the moment.

Tragedies are difficult because nobody really makes them anymore. Audiences are so used to seeing a 'hero's quest' they get thrown by the format.
The three main characters (and I would argue that they are all central) are all parts of the same personality, just having gone down slightly different paths.

In fact if you decide to place Chigur as the central character the film works pretty well as a heroic story on it's own.
Chigur does actually evolve as a character towards the end, when confronted by Kelly McDonald he looks like he is about to cry for instance. He is put in a similar position with the kids, when he appears panicked - I think he is questioning his code.

All of them have lost something by the end of the story: Life, sanity or hope.
As the old geezer says, moaning about it is "just vanity."
The real hope lies with the practical application of hard work and persistence, not giving up and chasing after dreams or money.

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