Not only does a second viewing of "No Country For Old Men" prepare oneself for a deeper understanding of the metaphorical underpinnings that populate this Coen Brothers masterpiece, but it makes one appreciate the sadness of the Tommy Lee Jones charatcer even more. And a word of caution, there are plenty of SPOILERS below, so read at your own peril.
Going on over at The House Next Door is a revealing and interesting discussion of the film coupled with an eloquent understanding of the film by chief editor Matt Zoller Seitz. Now that more and more people are getting a chance to see this film (with even more coming when it opens wide this week), the discussion is getting down right philosophical. Add to the fire are some of my own thoughts on a second viewing:
1. The theme of the film?- In my original capsule review, I stated ""No Country For Old Men" is a bleak, devastating and even puzzling meditation on lawlessness during the West Texas of 1980. There are so many executions and shoot-outs on desolate small-town streets and cheap motels that one begins to wonder if there's anyone left in the universe except Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem)" That seems to be the purpose. In fact, if anything, "No Country For Old Men" is not about Chigurh or Moss at all. This is really the story of Tommy Lee Jones' world weary sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, and the swift changes politically, finanicially and especially morally in the world in 1980. The violent battles between Moss and Anton could be read as metaphors for the erupting violence that was becoming commonplace in the world. They represent the forces of good and evil and Tommy Lee Jones is simply the "conscientious observer", to take a phrase from the Coen Brothers other masterpiece.
2. Much has been made of the (non) ending- Since, as established in the first point, that "No Country For Old Men" is not about the resolution of 'catching' Chigurh rather than the acceptance of Sheriff Bell that his service in this particular time and place has passed him by, the ending is rather fitting. Of course, its not an ending that 95% of the movie-going audience will want to see since we're a culture that demands neat, tidy, sensible resolutions when in fact life hardly ever resembles anything nice or tidy or sensible. It's such a shocking cut to the titles, though, that it does shake the viewer out of comprehension from the dream being verbalized by Sheriff Bell on-screen and it causes those words to linger in the memory much longer than anticipated. If only more films would trade favorable endings for something more haunting.
3. The fate of Lewellyn Moss- As I mentioned in the comments section at The House Next Door, "What I found the most intriguing about the film's refusal to glorify or even depict the death of Moss was that suspicious slow fade out as he turns down the offer of beers. Upon first viewing, I had no idea of what was about to come, but that slow fade-out felt so... unnatural based on the film's reliance on other modes of cutting. Upon second viewing, the fade-out felt so right, as if the curtain is slowly drawing on a remarkable performance and a worthy adversary to Bardem's whirlwind presence." This is nothing unusual... the Coen Brothers have been eliminating a main character with a single cut for over a decade now (remember the woodchipper in "Fargo"). But in "No Country For Old Men", the ending for Moss is more abrupt and brutal since he's been fighting so well for over 80% of the movie. But again, in the moral vaccuum that is West Texas of 1980, no one is allowed to get out alive.
4. Those dreams and the fate of Chigurh- On a second viewing, the dreams described by Sheriff Bell clearly represent the vast divide from when his father served as a law-man to now. And much has been made of the final scene with Chigurh, a moment that seems to describe Chigurh will continue on as a ghost, dealing out punishment as he sees fit, touched by humanity only through a coincidental car crash.
Every year there's one film that gets us movie-geeks going, and this year that film is "No Country For Old Men".