Brilliant Moment: No Country For Old Men

*Spoilers – ye be warned…

Best Picture Winner No Country for Old Men is renowned for its straightforward story, eerie villain and abrupt editing. One scene that best captures the essence of the movie is the ending. This scene encompasses the whole movie. There is no sound, the dialogue is not all that enticing (although there are theories of its significance) and it ends abruptly.

There are a lot of theories and explanations as to why they chose this ending. My two favorites can be found here and here.

Why did the Cohen Brothers end the movie on a seemingly lull note?

First, they are paying homage to the book. The original author of the book wrote it in a way where there was minimal punctuation. The conversations followed the format: vague and ambiguous, non-enthusiastic and seemingly insignificant to the plot. We thought we would get a classic showdown western-style with a gun shootout, but instead a conversation with a morning cup of coffee.

Second, (this is sort of two in one) this scene either reiterates the fact that the plot was insignificant and there was no real deep story. Or this scene is alluding more to the poem the movie was based off of and has deeper meanings.

Exploring the first idea, this scene is following the format the whole movie flows at. There is no sound and it is an anti-climatic ending. People have died off screen at this point (the main character and his wife) and Chigurh, the main antagonist, got in a car wreck and walked away. The last we ever see or hear of him.

The Cohen Brothers assumed the audience would put together that he died. The main actor was killed offscreen, which they showed. His wife was later killed (most likely) after Anton left her house and checked his boots. Then he was critically injured from the car crash with a compound fracture and several other injuries. With the rhythm the film was showing characters die, they were not ‘wasting time’ by showing them actually being killed.

With everything wrapping up, the Brothers end with the sheriff – who has been trailing the murderous events – who could be the actual main character of the story. He gets home and has a pleasant meal with his wife and has a normal conversation and the movie ends. We know he is about to retire and the case is nearly closed. With the format we just explored, we can assume he retires and lives a normal life.

The second idea explores how there is a deeper meaning to this scene and his dreams. The movie’s title is taken from the first line of the poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ by William Bulter Yeates. The poem is about turning inwards and leaving things of the past behind. In a way, changing yourself.

The first dream Sheriff Bell doesn’t really recall and quickly dismisses it. This is alluding to youth and living in the moment. Everything is more trivial and you do not do significant things.

The second dream he describes in a lot more detail. He is with his dad in the mountains. It is dark and cold. His dad is carrying a torch a rides ahead of him. At the end he says he knows his dad is waiting for him with warmth and light. Alluding to cold and hostile world that Bell is in, this whole dream could be him forgiving himself and embracing the warmth and light he is searching for. (In the book Bell was a WWII deserter and never forgave himself for leaving his comrades).

Those are my two ideas on the ending. What did you think of the ending?

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