The meaning of the philosophical thriller “No Country for Old Men”
No Country for Old Men is perhaps the Coen brothers’ most significant contribution to the development of cinema. The film was an overwhelming success with both pretentious critics and ordinary people, bringing its creators an impressive box office. The main advantages of the film: laconic, tense atmosphere, mute cruelty and a desire for realism.
The only complaint that viewers often make about the film is the too allegorical plot and understatement, which is why a seemingly banal and primitive scenario about a killer maniac turns into a philosophical parable. Even though the main message of the plot can be recognized by the name of the film, it is not at all easy to “disassemble” the work of the Coen brothers.
Clash of times
The plot of the film takes place in the 80s on the desert plains of Texas, when the Wild West meets the era of industrialization. The tired old generation is being replaced by new characters who are not constrained by outdated social norms and are ready to do anything to achieve what they want. This kind of collision of different times and generations can be seen in the film. The world is changing and the strongest wins.
The main characters in the film are Vietnam War veteran Llewellyn Moss, elderly Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and professional hitman Anton Chigur. Each of the characters symbolizes a different period of time and represents exactly the recreated archetype of each individual generation.
A symbol of the future
The brightest star of the whole film is Anton Chigur, performed by the inimitable Javier Bardem. At its core, Chigur is a symbol of the future. Anton is a superman according to Nietzsche, who is devoid of a moral code, religion, emotions. He is the most rational, logical being.
Chigur is not “evil” in the classical sense, he does not enjoy killing, does not revel in his own cruelty. Moreover, there is not a single cruel motive in his actions, he simply does his job: emotionlessly goes to the goal and if he resorts to accidental murders, then only on the basis of rational motives: the destruction of evidence. Of course, taking into account the laws of morality, Chigur is a real psychopath, which serves to display one of the main conflicts of various generations: high morality in the face of a symbol of the past (the elderly sheriff) and licentiousness, even immorality, which the new generation suffers from.
Particular attention should be paid to a kind of “game of fate”, in which Anton invites some of the people he meets to take part. Chigur eliminates any person who may pose even minimal danger to him – it is a matter of survival, which does not pursue cruel motives. But we can see the duality of character in those cases when he comes across people who do not carry him a direct threat.
The most significant moment when asked to play the game is Chigura’s phrase: “You have to choose, I can’t choose for you,” which symbolizes not even a lack of humanity in the killer’s soul, but Anton’s confusion when faced with a non-standard situation for him. Chigur cannot kill a person, because he does not pose a direct threat to him, but the risk is present, so he does not make his own decisions, but gives this prerogative to another person.
The symbol of the present
Llewellyn Moss with her passion, mobility, desire for change and not atrophied moral qualities appears before the audience as a symbol of the present. The character itself is the most standard of the trinity of protagonists, and the scene where he returns to the dying bandit is of greatest interest. This act can be equally interpreted as a manifestation of moral qualities and feelings of guilt towards a dying person, as well as a desire to make adjustments to your boring everyday life and draw from an excess of adrenaline.
A thirst for action, self-confidence and restlessness – this is what characterizes not only Moss, but also the generation of the present, when the thirst for change does not stop even in front of the frightening future (in the person of Chigur) and goes to meet him with passion.
A symbol of the past
The unhurried and philosophical Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is like a monument to the past. Unable to cope with the shocks surrounding him, the sheriff is constantly in prostration: he is always several steps behind Chigur and Llewellyn, does not understand the motives of the criminal and cannot track his current location.
One of the most important, but outwardly unremarkable scenes with the sheriff is his visit to the ranch to his old friend, who saw the death of Tom’s own grandfather. After the conversation, it turns out that Tom’s uncle was brutally murdered in 1909 by a gang of criminals. This story clearly shows that cruelty in our world has always been an integral part of life, despite the stories of old people that it was always better before. “You cannot stop the future, and you cannot adjust life for yourself” – the final words, which were said by Tom’s comrade. Our life always changes over time and you can either adjust to the surrounding reality, or give up, give in to the young.
Triumph of the future
Progress, striving for change and evolution are an irreversible process in the life of mankind. Anton Chigur, symbolizing the future time, a little shabby, but still alive remains unpunished, “grinds” at the same time all the acting characters of the film.
No, “No Country for Old Men”, despite the first glance, does not romanticize murder, the film can hardly even be called truly cruel, rather life-like. This is just a parable that illustrates the natural course of life.