Sunday, April 22, 2012

No Country for Old Men (2005)

For better or worse, I saw the movie first, so it's hard to get some things out of my head, such as Javier Bordem's haircut. Book and movie are two different things, but both are basically worthy, I think (on first impressions), and with a good deal of overlap. At first it read to me much like a kind of Elmore Leonard novel transposed to West Texas/Texas desert, and certainly that's how the movie plays. But McCarthy has a good deal more going on, particularly with the greater focus on Sheriff Bell. His interior monologues are the centerpiece of the book and I'm not sure how much they made it into the movie at all. Still, Anton Chigurh is so monumentally evil that he vies for attention with (and/or distracts from) that. As McCarthy Satan analogues go, I think I still prefer Judge Holden. They are both self-consciously superhuman, and while I like the spooky effect (such as Chigurh's preferred mode of homicide) I'm not sure how much I buy it. More convincing to me on the case that evil is abroad on the land, and it's winning, are those ruminations by Sheriff Bell, for example on the well-known survey of school problems then and now (keeping in mind that "now" in this novel is quite deliberately 1980), e.g., chewing gum vs. rape, which closes on this passage, reporting a discussion with a woman he and his wife meet at a conference: "She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don't think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation." On some level, I know—snap!—that's just too easy. But on some level I know I don't have much response to it either, even as one who favors abortion and euthanasia as lesser evils. Similarly, the Chigurh character seems too easy as a monster. At the same time McCarthy, via Sheriff Bell, understands the more profound complexity here as well, namely why drugs are such a powerful draw (and taboo), which is the root of all this evil drug trafficking in the first place. The money is there simply because the appeal of the drugs is there first. The money and the violence and all of it.

In case it's not at the library.

No comments:

Post a Comment