I chanced upon a television promo of this film, about four months ago. A ten second glimpse of a barren landscape; followed by a short burst of a shotgun from another scene, and then a tight close up of the anti-protagonist’s clean shaven face that defined the movie for me. “From the makers of the critically acclaimed Fargo and The Big Lebowski" came the announcement.
I’d already watched Fargo by then. I could recollect faintly that I’d also seen two other films of the same duo- Joel and Ethan Coen. And I won’t deny it. The ensuing curiosity that engulfed me was almost deafening. It was not long before I'd gotten my hands on the DVD.
Watching a Coen Brothers film is like watching a lunatic with a paint brush in his hand and a 24x36 inch perfectly blank canvas laid out in front of him. You could just turn around and start walking within the first ten minutes of his getting to work saying to your self, “What? Ninety minutes of this? I’d go mad.”
I repeat myself- you could turn around and start walking ten minutes into his wild stroke making and paint splashing glee-spree... but you don’t. Because somewhere inside you, there’s this voice telling you that ‘after all every genius is a lunatic’.
‘It could also be the other way around’ you retaliate, but you don’t know for sure. So you wait and watch...
And I’m not saying that what you get at the end of the ninetieth minute will make you jump up and holler with satisfaction (I sure didn’t feel that way). Nor am I assuring you that you’d have watched a cinema of epic proportions (because it isn’t). What I can assure you is that you would’ve seen something as unexpected as ‘unexpected’ can be. On the whole, you could like it or not like it; but it’ll have its moments.
As I was saying earlier, I had already seen ‘Fargo’ by then and the film wasn’t a satisfying watch to tell you the truth. It felt more like a brief preview of things to come; things we could safely expect to be delivered to us in future by this uniquely talented pair. And after watching ‘No Country...’ my belief has been corroborated, atleast into a hundredfold.
I ask you- how many movies have you seen till today? Of those few hundreds (Assuming of course that the people who read this blog are cinema lovers; & frankly speaking who isn’t) how many films have made you ‘feel’ an emotion? To be particular, how many of those have made you feel really tensed?
And the mother of all questions- how many of the films that are crossing over your brains at the moment do not have a background score?
It’s a fact that cannot be denied, most of the top rated films are top rated, one of the key reasons being that they heavily rely upon music as an emotional back drop for the audience. I doubt whether the awe inspiring opening sequence of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ would be as menacing as it appears now devoid of the horrifying clatter of saxophones, trumpets and bells. Chistopher Waltz does walk and talk evil, but the icing to the cake is, in the end, the background score.
Name any cult movie made by the blood-n-gore friendly Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Volume I & II, Inglorious...); or the noire/neo-noire specialist Christopher Nolan (of Memento, Prestige and Inception fame); or larger-than-life storytellers Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg (L.O.T.R & Indiana Jones series respectively); or moving back to the 60s, 70s and 80s: Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove-How I learnt to stop worrying and love the bomb, 2001 Space Odyssey, The Shining, etc), and the ‘baap’ of all criminal suspense dramas Alfred Hitchcock (no need to prove his credit worthiness by naming his creations). Each of these had a top notch music department.
Well I won’t deny the power of silence that classic movies make use of either. They are quite effective, but are scene specific, not lasting throughout the movie. And here I find this psycho thriller, that has, might I say, a laid back feel to it with barely anything close enough to be called as background music. Yet it makes you cringe; you feel as if you are a part of each and every scene, the screenplay being terrific and the camerawork spotless. The dialogues have been adopted verbatim from the novel by Cormac McCarthy and I found nothing to complain on that as well. Javier Bardem, as the killer with principles, is at his nerve-racking best.
I could go on (till next Thursday).
The best part of the film is that almost everything is left open for the audience to interpret... including the end. Some might find that dissatisfying and inconclusive. I don’t care if they do. Because by the time three fourth of the film is behind you, you’d have already seen more than your money’s worth.
A forewarning to anyone intending take my view seriously, disclaimer implied; this is definitely not for the squeamish!