1 How did you first come to see this movie?
I didn’t see it in the movie theater, I don’t think. It’s one of those movies that, even if you were alive and watching movies at the time it came out and you hadn’t seen it, you would absorb it through the collective unconscious, which we now call the internet. Fargo came out in the infancy of the internet, but somehow you still knew about it.
2 What makes it a movie worth owning?
I guess what I am describing above can all be called cult status. Remember movie rental stores? Am I older than anyone who would read this? Remember being able to rent VHS tapes and going back into that warren of a darkened corner somewhere that had this collection of Cult Films or Midnight Movies? And what made these films all belong to the same group despite their genre or director or any other criteria was that they spoke to some darkened corner warren of the film watcher’s soul. The content might be questionable, addressing taboos, penetrating unmentionable quandaries, or setting an eerie mood like thin gauze over a necrotic corpse. These movies left a mark, and over the course of filmmaking, they also became more mainstream. So here is Fargo, distilling a strain humanity that is depraved and depicts to what lengths the human animal will go to preserve itself.
3 What are your favorite parts?
I feel like the things that stick with the watcher are the scenes that make this movie iconic. The vast North Dakotan/Minnesotan landscape and the naïveté of the accent juxtaposed against the brutality of the actions. Steve Buscemi.
4 What do you relate to in the movie?
I am not sure that this movie is supposed to be relatable. Although it depicts the human condition, it never implicates its audience. The lines are pretty clear as to who the bad guys are (nearly everyone), and who we are supposed to route for (the pregnant cop).
5 Who is your favorite character and why?
I like the way Frances McDormand and her husband relate to each other. I feel sorry for William H. Macy, but not empathetic. In classic noir style, he is given many opportunities to undo the course of events, but he can’t see his way to them. He feels trapped, as if what he does is the only course available to him. I don’t like the ultimate bad guy, but I don’t think you are supposed to. He doesn’t even seem human. He functions emotionlessly and perfunctorily. He is not a killer with a heart of gold. Given that, he is perhaps the only person who does exactly what he is supposed to at all times. He is like the Coen Brothers’ other notorious bad guy, Anton Sigur. There is this code of behavior that must be followed and he follows it precisely. Even Frances McDormand breaks the rules of her good cop role by flirting with someone who finds her attractive.
6 How did this movie make you feel?
I think the frustration this movie makes you feel is very intentional. The sprawling white snow-laden fields are in direct opposition to the claustrophobic trapped feeling that threatens to strangle William H. Macy. Despite the fact that nothing good happens to anyone and there is a high cost for absolutely no gain, I don’t remember feeling what I might have expected: utter despair. I guess we will see what happens this time.
After the movie
1 How accurate were your memories of this movie?
Pretty accurate. There were some details like the painted mallards I had forgotten. But overall, it sticks with you.
2 How much had you forgotten?
When WHM’s wife is being kidnapped, she tries to run away and locks herself in the bathroom with a phone which is yanked out of her grips while she is trying to call the police. WHM, after he lost the deal he was trying to present to his father-in-law that would help him make some legitimate money, goes outside to his singular car in the middle of the parking lot and has to scrape his windshield. His efforts are ineffective and he reacts to his inability to remove the ice with rage. And then he calms down and applies himself again to the task.
3 Do you still like this movie?
4 Did you have any new feelings or experiences?
I mentioned self-preservation before, but now I am thinking there is more to that. Self-preservation is in the movie. It motivates William H. Macy to commit the fraud for which he is trying now to cover himself. It motivates the criminals to act in the ways they do, escalating their crimes. But there is also the lady cop who is pregnant which represents the hope of new life, the way we preserve ourselves by reproduction even if we don’t understand the horrors which present themselves before us.
5 What is the take-away?
“There’s more to life than money,” FM says towards the end. Yes, but if you don’t have any money, life becomes harder. WHM saw money all around him, just none of it was flowing in his direction. The last scene of the movie seems to suggest the answer to the question as to what more there is to life if not just money. FM and her husband are lying in bed watching television, a nature channel documenting all the different kinds of life cycles, and the camera turns on them so that as the viewer watches them, they are implicitly also watching us. And the husband says to his wife, with regards to her swollen belly, “Just two more weeks.” Life is what more there is to life.