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The Coens’ ‘Fargo’ will be shown at Legends

Observer Scene | Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The human condition is often depicted in modern society as tragic and petty. “Fargo” is a masterful portrayal of these very conditions.

The film, released in 1996, is skillfully directed and written by Joel and Ethan Coen, who are known in Hollywood as simply “the Coen Brothers.” “Fargo” is considered by many to be the Coen Brothers’ best work.

The film is a poignant example of American cinema at its best, combining facets of suspense, drama and a keen insight into human nature to provide a virtual smorgasbord of visual and intellectual stimulation.

Perhaps the opening scene of the movie offers the most insight into the dark direction of the film. The opening strains of the film’s score, composed by Carter Burtwell, first provide the viewer with a feeling of the friendliness of the far north reaches of United States.

However, this feeling is sharply contrasted with the stunning visual images of the frozen tundra of North Dakota. As the music progresses, the rural feel gives way to a hauntingly chilling ambiance, foreshadowing the dark events that are sure to ensue.

“Fargo” stars William H. Macy as a financially troubled car salesman Jerry Lundegaard. Lundegaard is in a spot of financial trouble (the likes of which is never revealed to the viewer) and seeks financial recompense through an elaborate plan to have his wife Jean Lundegaard, played by Kristin Rudrüd, kidnapped and held for ransom. He invokes the help of two low-life criminals, Carl Showalter (played by Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (played by Peter Stormare).

Lundegaard’s plan is to have his wife kidnapped and held for $1,000,000 ransom, giving $40,000 of which to the kidnappers and keeping the rest for himself. However, as a series of mishaps causes the slaying of three innocent people, Lundegaard sifts deeper and deeper into a mire of murder and deception.

The film’s strongest qualities lie in its ability to provide the viewer with a sense of the human condition in a situation of deep desperation and helplessness. Through the adroit ly effective acting skills of both Macy and Buscemi, “Fargo” is able to find a sense of humor, albeit a dark one, in the most sinister acts of human character.

Providing a glimpse of the positive side of human existence is the pregnant sheriff Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormand.

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know, ” Gunderson says, offering her positively-minded insight into the decrepit state of the desperate man’s mind as she speaks to one of the kidnappers.

Gunderson has found happiness in a fulfilling career and a loving husband, and attempts to soften the mood of the movie as a beacon of virtue in an otherwise dark film.

Furthering Fargo’s bid as one of the best movies of the 1990s is the stunning cinematography. The stark white atmosphere of the movie is contrasted piercingly with the dark nature of the film. The cold climate depicted throughout “Fargo” is compared effectively with the cold feelings that permeate several of the main characters’ hearts. These subtle nuances are the aspects that elevate “Fargo” from being a good film into being a great film.

“Fargo” will be showing this Thursday at midnight as part of Legend’s “Brew and View.”