FargoOf course I’ve heard of the Coen brothers! Who hasn’t? Certainly since their hits of “Burn after Reading” and “No Country for Old Men” the two brothers who have spent over twenty years churning some of Hollywood’s finest have finally entered the mainstream. As part of my ever on-going great film marathon I finally got around to seeing this, quite possibly their greatest film “Fargo” (thank you Mr. Podge for the loan of the DVD!). Safe to say, I was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of the movie! For any who haven’t seen this I’d strongly recommend it.

The story takes place in Brainerd, North Dakota and examines how even the best planned crime can quickly get out of control. Jerry Lundegaard (an excellently paranoid William H. Macy) is steeped in debt and so hires two gangsters to kidnap his wife and hold her to ransom. Her rich father would then pay this ransom and Lundegaard himself would walk away with $40,000. However things begin to go wrong from the out and what was intended to be a quick, clean crime turns bloody when a State Trooper and two innocent civilians are killed by one of the psychopathic criminals thus involving the highly pregnant Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand).

While this is certainly not a story for the faint hearted, the film rarely descends into sentimentality and indeed only once, towards the end do the Coen’s shove the message in the face of the audience as McDormand’s character points out “there’s more to life than a little bit of money.” Quite surprisingly the majority of the film is highly humerous, the story littered with the character’s banter and chit-chat as they go through their daily lives. And not for a moment is it dull. In a way it is similar to the “Royale with Cheese” sequence in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” as the dialogue is populated with irrelevant material but this makes the whole thing infinitely more enjoyable. This talk about nothing is an intelligent way for the Coens to highlight the gap between people: Lundegaard’s inability to communicate with his son and Marge’s reunion with an old pal are excellent examples of this, yet these issues never cut deep. Instead they only graze the surface, perhaps a little stronger from time to time, reminding us just how important life is. The great plot is accompanied throughout by some beautifully haunting cinematography by Roger Deakins of the snowy wastes of Fargo. Near the opening of the film there is a shot of a giant white expanse and along the bottom, a tiny dot of a car makes its way along. It’s like saying “In North Dakota no one can hear you scream…”

Fargo OSTAs a film music fan I cannot go without commenting on the film’s score composed by Carter Burwell. While I am not generally a huge fan of Burwell’s work I am in awe of the beautiful main theme he wrote for the film. Curiously this theme accompanies both the characters of William H. Macy and Frances McDormand and serves more as an overarching tune for the film rather than a character leitmotif. If you are new to Burwell this is a great place to start and a much easier listen than many of his other scores.

Fargo comes with an 18s certificate due to language and some bloody violence and certainly doesn’t make for easy viewing even for a mature audience. However it is easily one of the best films of 1996 and of all time, completely deserving it’s place in the 1001 movie book. If you’re a fan of the Coen Brothers or not this is highly recommendable.



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That’s it for another week. Please let me know what you think and what other movies and scores you would like me to blog about in upcoming posts. All the best!