Saturday, April 19, 2008

On seeing "No Country For Old Men"

No Spoilers here, but I just saw No Country For Old Men, and I wonder if other folks out there in the ether had the same reaction I did. The film was amazing. The Coen brothers not only make beautiful movies (as far as cinematography)but they have an uncanny knack for pacing a story to match its theme. My one question is this: While other films have played with nihilism, depicting a conflict between a kind of heroically apathetic absudrist confronting nihilistic maniacs(The Big Lebowski), and showed an antihero striving against absurdity and nihilism out of force of will (O Brother Where Art Thou), and even shown curios exploration of nihilistic tone (Fargo), this film seemed to express a kind of evangelical nihilism. It felt persuasive. Maybe that's more Cormac McCarthy's doing than theirs, but if he preached it, they didn't shy away from mimicking the tone (I haven't read his novel, so I don't know if that tone was his, but I think it was theirs). Did anyone else feel like this was an argument for embracing nihilism? I'm not knocking that. I found it a brilliant argument. But I'm wondering if other people had the same reaction.


laurenj said...

we believe in nothing!

I didn't think the movie was particularly nihilistic - I see that running theme/tone through their movies as these characters, who don't buy into conventional morality, asking themselves, "What do I need, and what am I willing to do to get it?" Whether the dude just trying to get his rug back or whats-his-butt in NCFOM, these anti-heros seem to be saying "There isn't much that has meaning, but to let this pass would be to go to far!" Of course, each of these movies also has the character who DOES adhere to conventional morality and belief and comments on the change they see in how people ignore it - the cop in Fargo, Tommy Lee in NCFOM, perhaps The Big Lebowski? more than nihilism, in these movies i see the dogged determination to keep going, keep digging yourself in, because the alternative is...boredom? nothingness? losing?

"There is a line in the sand, and over that line YOU DO NOT...and by the way, Dude, "Chinaman" is not the preferred nomenclature..."

Joel said...

The difference, I think, in NCFOM is that Jones adherence to a conventional morality gained him nothing. He didn't get his rug back, he didn't discover the murderer loading people into a wood chipper, he just quit. Chigurh just kept getting away. Jones surrenders his determination to keep going. He is left with no cause and no belief other than that death awaits him. I think that is the evangelical nihilism tone Ben found in the film.

Benjamin Gorman said...

Right. And here's the thing: in the other films we find the determination of the characters in the face of absurdity to he be laudible. but can anyone watching No Country really blame Jones' character for giving up? If anything, we'd consider him a fool if he kept going, because we've accepted the premise that there's no point. We buy into the nihilism by the end. We're convinced. I thought that's what made the movie so effective. When the character gave up, I agreed. I had been converted to the same nihilism. Testify. Amen.