We saw one of the most famous films of the Coen brothers “No Country for Old Men” in the already crisis year of 2007 and it made a strong impression. It seems that for the first time in the long history of American cinema, no one gave us a happy ending. The tragedy of life, the lack of hope – that’s what they showed us. Probably, the Coens made their film, anticipating the catastrophe that is unfolding before us until now – America ceases to believe in a better future, in the eternal “happy ending”. But let’s talk about everything in order …
Plot No Country for Old Men
The plot of how a person accidentally finds a lot of money and gets rich, moving away from all dangers, from pursuers and former owners, is very common in Hollywood films. Here, too, hardworking Moss, a veteran of the Vietnam War, accidentally finds shot gangsters and a suitcase of their money. Here it is – a happy opportunity to change your boring life. Moss could not resist the temptation, but now the Americans and Mexicans are hunting for money.
And then there’s Sheriff Bell, who just needs to figure out what’s going on in his area – what kind of corpses are they, who’s on the run there, and why a psychopath killer is walking around his territory. The voiceover that tells the story is the voice of Old Man Bell.
Speaking of a killer named Chigurh… He is played by Javier Bardem. He follows the trail with relentless tenacity and kills everyone who gets in his way. Not because he is bloodthirsty or enjoys the sight of suffering and death – not at all. He just does his job so that there is no interference and no traces left. But, of course, he plays a little and shows off a little in his insensitivity. For example, he offers his victims to make a choice, to play “fate”.
There are many more secondary and tertiary, passing heroes – we have identified three main ones. A deadly duel will take place with their participation. And all three images carry a huge symbolic load.
The main characters of the movie No Country for Old Men
Let’s start with Moss, who tidied up someone else’s suitcase. This is a symbol of an ordinary, average American. Not in the ordinary sense, no. A man in his own way is interesting, intelligent, not a timid one, he lives in the present, acts tactically within the possibilities given to him by fate. He is far from perfect – stealing is not good, and you can be more merciful. However, Moss is the real America. One feels that this is a kind of archetypal American. And at the same time, it symbolizes the present, life here and now. He is a good family man and does not want to harm anyone. It’s just that circumstances develop the way they develop and he obeys them.
Sheriff Bell is a good man. He personifies the best traditions of the past, the image of a real American in his best incarnation. He is a defender, a champion of truth and justice, he has principles and duty, for the sake of them he will make a sacrifice. It is difficult for him to understand what life has become, why people have changed so much – and not for the better. And where is THEIR sense of duty, humanity and justice? The Sheriff, however, is more surprised than acted. One of his old friends reminds him that the world has always been cruel, and in the days of their youth too.
And, finally, Anton Chigurh, performed by Bardem, is some kind of perfect evil, a man of purpose, without conscience and compassion. He is not interested in senile nonsense about morality, he does not obey the circumstances and does not want to be ordinary, like Moss. No wonder he always presents himself as “the hand of fate.” It seems that this is the personified expediency, cynicism and cruelty, which crushes not only people under itself, overtaking them inevitably and forcing them to act according to their own rules. He is ready to take over the whole world. But the Coen brothers, as directors, will especially scoff at those who think too much of themselves.
For the first time, Anton will stumble over the stubbornness of Moss’s wife – she will refuse to make a choice, to play his stupid “roulette”. And all Anton’s arrogance will be swept away like a hand. It seems that for the first time he will kill with feeling, in his hearts, offended by the fact that the superhuman bench has been knocked out from under his feet. And then, having successfully completed all his affairs, he will suddenly become a victim of a ridiculous accident. “The ocean is still alive!” Blok once exclaimed. Yes, the Universe, in all its chaos and unpredictability, is alive. This world has no rulers, you will not calculate anything, because everything is in the hands of fate and chance.
But a person, looking back, continues to see the world as reasonable, capable of talking to him. This clearly proves the ending of the film – not at all action-packed, by the way.
The meaning of the ending
The sheriff tells his wife two of his dreams, in which he sees his father, who was also a sheriff. The father gives him money, and he loses it. And it looks as if he had to keep some kind of tradition, but he could not, did not extend it in the new generation. His father was cool, and he, already an aging sheriff in the new America, is not like the great ancestors. In this story there is a hint of weakness that has overtaken the whole country. Is today’s America like the old one? We are no longer us, say the filmmakers.
But the second dream, where the father has kindled a fire and is waiting for his son, gives some hope. True, it is not clear which of the characters in the film could jump to this fire, because the path lies through darkness and cold.