No Country for Old Men
1. The Book
The novel is written in an interesting narrative style. The back-and-forth banter of the dialogue with the speakers implied rather than stated, as well as the barest of physical details, gives the reader the freedom to create the scene in their own minds using the emotional details given instead. It allows the reader to give the dialogue the tone and emphasis that would make the most sense to them and to invent details that they would consider worthy of such acts of brutality.
2. The Movie
Like the book’s themes, the movie shows a battle of good versus evil. The sheriff represents good, holding to his duty and the rules despite all the things he’s seen, while Chigurh represents evil, with his brutal and nihilistic outlook. Moss is representative of the average individual, neither good nor evil, but able to be swayed both ways.
3. The Adaptation
Due to the lack of details in the book, despite how it almost resembles a script already, it is nearly impossible to duplicate that technique in film, and totally impossible in a film like this. In horror video games (and perhaps the wider horror genre, but I’ve only heard it used for games), there is a widely accepted philosophy that the more you see of a monster, the less scary it becomes, because no one can ever hope to design something more terrifying than what exists in the player’s imagination. The lack of details achieves a similar effect with the violence in the book, because all the adjectives in the world would not be able to create a scene as brutal as the reader could imagine it to be. The level of brutality is certainly emphasized and not softened through the sound design and lack of musical score, but as long as we can actually see the details of the events, they will always be inferior to the book in their effectiveness.
4. Outside Sources
A conversation between the author and the directors.
An analysis of the film in the context of where it was shot. It explains the politics of the Rio Grande, how so many westerns have been shot there, and how those things are reflected in the film. All the old western tropes are pointed out, and how No Country for Old Men uses them.
An examination of the themes of the ending of the film, using quotes to denote the progression of the ending scene in its analyzation.
5. Critical Argument
Although Chigurh is undoubtedly a nihilist rather than a psycho-killer, it only applies in that he feels others’ lives are trivial and unimportant, not worth considering. Nihilism is also defined in a lack of rules or beliefs, but Chigurh only ignores the generally accepted rules. He still maintains his own twisted sense of honor, demonstrated through the coin toss. True nihilism is nearly impossible to express in literature without the character drifting towards being an anarchist rather than a nihilist, like with The Joker from The Dark Knight.