The award winning film, No Country for Old Men, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 2007 novel, is a riveting tale of a brutal chain of events related to money, murder, and drugs, which rolls through West Texas in the 1980’s. Told through the perspective of the stories three main characters – a soulless killer, an old time sheriff, and an experienced country boy – both the novel and the film keep the audience anxiously waiting for the next gun fight or brutal killing.
Amazingly, the film’s adaptation, directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coens, manages to capture the themes and overall essences of the novel by maintaining all distinguishing mannerisms and dispositions of the characters; while also keeping the films dialogue almost a direct reflection of the novel. Essentially, “the Coens make a great film…because they remain true to a great book”.
Although many of the scenes throughout the film deserve recognizing for their brilliant visual representation of the novel, one of the more disturbing scenes and arguably the best scene adaptation, is Antoine Chigurh’s conversation with the Texaco gas station owner and the life-or-death coin toss. In both the film and the novel, the scene serves the same purpose of developing Chigurh’s character and introducing the significance of the coin.
Like many of the scenes the Coens treat the pages in the novel as the script (Bayless 8); however, they most definitely add subtle, genius improvements to the scene, in addition to using methodically thought out techniques to heightening the overall uncomfortableness and escalating discomfort felt by the audience, throughout the characters exchange. Throughout much of the film, the dialogue has been taken directly from the McCarthy’s writing and does not deviate from the author’s desired depiction of the tension and uncomfortableness of the exchange between Chigurh and the inconspicuous gas station attendant.
Film Score Music To say that music plays a large role in our society would not do justice to one of the most important and popular art forms of yesterday and today. We underestimate the effectiveness and power that music, in any form, can have over even the most insensitive of people. In almost everything we do and see music is involved in some form or another. Be it a piece played at a wedding, a ...
Allowing for enough screen time, a little over four and half minutes, for this conversation to unfold, permits the dialogue to really ingrain the desired impression on the audience and pull them into the scene. The directors chosen camera technique, a simple two composition that progresses the scene a steady pace, forces the audience to feel a part of the awkward exchange; obviously, a quality of film that could not be as profoundly achieved through the narrative in the novel.
In addition to the benefits of camera techniques, the Coean brothers’ add in subtleties that in enhance the overall eerie feel of the scene, aspects that are not included in the novel. One of the most well thought out and creative addition, is the hanging electrical wires on the back wall, just behind the proprietor head. Unarguably, each one looks like nooses. No doubt, this inventive visual enhancement was intentional and it most definitely heightens the aura of death in the scene.
Another technique not seen in the novel that serves to heighten the tension felt in the scene, is the un-crinkling of the Chigurh’s cashew wrapper. This seemingly simple aspect does wonders at adding suspense to the scene and demonstrating the strain and uncomfortableness for the gas station attendant and perhaps even the irritation of Chigurh. The excruciating, drawn out rustle of the cashew wrapper also brings to the attention of the audience that this scene, like many others in film, has no music; consequently, the only sounds are the tense dialogue and the exaggerated chewing of Chigurh.
The fact that the awkwardness can be felt throughout this section of the film, without the contribution of appropriate and intense music that most directors usually include in scenes to help provoke a desired emotion in the audience, speaks multitude about just how incredible the actors’ performances are and the genuine brilliance of the directors abilities to capture the essence of the novel. So although the scene in the films, lacks some of the details of the novel, it arguably does a better job of expressing this specific scene.
In the article “Interpreting The Day the Earth Stood Still for Contemporary Film Audiences” written in 2008, the Author, Joshua Pardon, writes about the messages that were sent to the American film audience of 1951 through the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, based on a short story by Harry Bates written in 1940. These messages ranged from topics like the societal costs of atomic technology and ...
As stated previously, this scene in both the novel and the film is responsible for introducing the coin and its implication to the plot of the story. Since the coin reappears later in the closing scenes of the narrative, it is critical that its significance is accurately portrayed through the early encounters in the novel. Besides, contributing to the plot of the story, the coin also provides insight and gen into Chigurh’s twisted ethical code, understanding of fate and his general character.
Both the novel and the film equally manage to illustrate the coin as instrument of fate – the belief that everything happens for a reason. In Chigurh’s sick morality code, he uses the coin as a means for mercy and as an opportunity for a person he deems worthy to potentially be spared; however, just because Chigurh provides the opportunity does not mean that fate will allowed them to be saved.
Essentially, Chigurh places so much faith in the doings of the universe, notably whether the coin lands on heads or tails, that he places the full responsibility on the coin and he unquestionably allows the coin’s ‘verdict’ to determine his actions and the consequential outcome of the entire situation. Although the novel does a good job of representing the significance of the coin to the character development of Chigurh, it does not have the same visual advantage of film of presenting body language.
Consequently, the film is potentially better at portraying this scene and demonstrating the extensive respect that Chigurh has for instruments of fate, in this scenario the coin. In the film, Chigurh chokes on his cashews upon hearing the attendant “married into” the gas station, the viewer can see the disgust in his facial features and the overall anger in his body language at the realization that the proprietor was handed ownership of the gas station. Consequently, visually seeing Chigurh’s reaction, makes it obvious that he wants to kill the attendant.
'The Pianist' is a film directed by Roman Polanski and based around the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman during the Nazi invasion of Poland. Roman used visual techniques in the opening scenes such as black and white film, camera positioning and motifs to create an atmosphere for the audience. The first scene in the film is a montage of grainy black and white scenes of Polish life before the Nazi ...
This cinematic advantage, arguably gives the audience a better understanding of how strictly Chigurh adheres to his ethical code and the extent of respect and value he places in his perception of fate, since although it is obvious that he desires to kill the attendant, he will not overrule the decision of ‘fate’. In both the novel and the book, it is reinforced throughout each passage the evilness of Chigurh, however, the scene at the gas station goes further and provides the audience with insight into the psychotic mind and ethical code of a seemingly emotionless killer.
Even though the scene only includes a conversation between Antoine Chigurh and the proprietor, the contribution to the storyline is immense. Moreover, although the scene in both the novel and the film are tremendously similar, they have minor differences and improvements that arguably contribute to a better understanding of the underlying subtleties of the scene and essentially, Chigurh’s character as a whole.