Sunday, February 1, 2009

Loathing No Country

Here, I will give a poor attempt at explaining my distaste for the Coen Brothers' highly acclaimed film, "No Country for Old Men."

Several years ago, I had a conversation with my then-roommate about the movie he had just made me watch, entitled "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." He asked me what I thought, and I told him point blank and unequivocally, "I hated it." He then kindly attempted to correct my obvious ignorance, because clearly I had not understood the film. He explained to me that it was an uncanny reflection of the downward spiral of licentiousness. He assured me that this was a very accurate representation of how each of these drugs alters a man's consciousness. I took his word for it.

I'm sure that the same kind of thing could be said for "No Country." A very compelling and well-crafted account of the apparent blind forces that bring fortune and misfortune into one's life, shot with a keen eye for southwestern sense and sensibility. Masterfully and subtly acted. Etcetera. I will not argue this point.

I will, however, ask myself what the point of a story is when evaluating a piece of fiction. Not that individual story, but stories in general. Why are they told? Why should they be told? C.S. Lewis mentioned in his essay "On Stories," his astonishment at the sheer volume of work regarding style, order, and the delineation of characters in stories when there was scarce written regarding the ontology of stories themselves.

A story (in my opinion, to which I am entitled), should give us a fair glimpse into the eternal so that we may be better worshippers of God. It should not be merely a nearsighted snapshot of a single aspect of reality separated from the whole. Even if the snapshot is a very accurate one. The Bible would be the penultimate example of a story. Our culture has a way of celebrating the individual, the special case, and the deviant with no regard to the part they play as members of the whole. Altered states of consciousness and sociopathic homicide may be facts, but they are not truths when disconnected from judgment and/or redemption. Case studies are not stories. They are rarely worth mentioning, and never masquerading as entertainment or in any way a helpful social commentary when separated from their ultimate and inevitable ends.

Unfortunately for the Coen brothers' souls, missing the telos from the outset made No Country for Old Men a very well-crafted waste of time.


Rick said...

My feelings exactly! Good shot at breaking it all down.

T-Bear said...

*Applauding wildly* Thank you for articulating my own thoughts about much of what passes for "art" these days.