Fargo (1996)

Film: Fargo
Release: 1996, theatrical
Starring: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy
Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: A man wanting to cheat his wealthy father-in-law out of a large sum of money plans a fake kidnapping scheme that goes horribly wrong.

Hans' thoughts:

Written, Directed, Produced and Edited by the phenomenal Coen Bros. we have Fargo, the story of what too much greed and do to you. Conman and car salesman Jerry Lundegaard finds out he needs a rather large sum of money and so he arranged a fake kidnapping of his wife so he could get money out of his wealthy father-in law. To do that he hires two crooks, Carl Showalter played by Steve Buscemi and Gaear Grimsrud by Peter Stormare. Everything seems to go fine, but when the psychopathic Gaear shoots and kills a traffic patrol officer followed by a likvidation of witnesses the two kidnappers are now at the receiving end of a manhunt. The officer in charge is the kindhearted, highly pregnant detective Marge Gunderson played by Frances McDormand. The film is a lonely one, while all the characters have people they interact with on a daily basis throughout the movie, they all ultimately end up alone in their key moment of the film. Marge Gunderson is a happily married woman, but when she finally catches up to the bad guys she does so completely alone. Jerry Lundegaard is also finally captured alone, and the two crooks that become the driving force behind the event of the film all ultimately meet their fates on their own in some regard. 

Gunderson, our main character, is almost a Christ or Maria character. Being kind and forgiving to everyone she meets she never displays anything that remotely looks like a dark side. She's a lover, not a killer and she simply cannot comprehend the kind of darkness that defines so many of the characters in the film. This could very well have been a very bland character, if not for the excellent performance by McDormand that makes this character seem infinitely believable - like the way a child would see their mother. Kind but firm. A lot of the shots of the film are done from very far away, in the infinite cold landscape of Middle-America where the film takes place. Large empty sceneries with singular characters walking through a very empty world. The snowy environment makes us focus directly on the action, while also providing a sad empty atmosphere. In stark contrast, you have most of the scenes with Marge Gunderson be in company with someone else, either questioning people for leads on her case or being home with her husband. All these shots, with the exception of when she's at the scenes of darkness like the chases or the crime scenes, have warm indoor colours. However all of the police character treat the murder much less dramatically than you usually see in these kinds of stories. Saddened by the loss but with a professional restraint and objectivity - they're at their workplace. It's a very nice change of pace from what you usually see in the genre where characters will become personally involved.

Completely polarizing from Marge you have the silent giant Gaear Grimsrud. Gaear is a taker of life instead of a giver and while Marge will likely make kind idle conversation with other characters Gaear is a man of ultimate materialism. He doesn't interact with others except when completely necessary and he clearly has a very cold darkness inside of him, comparable to the unkind snowy landscape that surrounds the movie. The one that suffers the ultimate punishment however is the movies tour de force, Jerry Lundegaard. He's almost comically tragic in how everything just goes wrong for him at every turn, the same can be said for Steve Buscemi who's in tip top shape doing what he does best in the role of Carl Showalter. He's a fast-talking unlucky man that like Grimsrud takes pleasure in materialism but doesn't stop at the little things. While Grimsrud finds pleasure in a TV-show and a small dinner, the despicable Showalter wants everything that's best in life, women food and alcohol. Some of the best moments in the movie comes from Buscemi as everything just falls apart around him in what should have been an easy bit of money. 

Fargo is not for everyone, the films main driving force is it's celebration of the simple things and it's intimidating atmosphere. It may feel too slow for audiences used to more actiondriven stories about remakable people. For the rest of us, here is a sweet story about a mother-to-be trying to comprehend the significantly darker world around her and her little family. 
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