Darkness, Silence, and Hopelessness in No Country for Old Men
November 19, 2014
The film No Country for Old Men is often interpreted as a constant struggle between good and evil, with good represented by Sheriff Bell and evil represented by Anton Chigurh, a hitman played by Javier Bardem. While the moral battle depicted in the film is certainly apparent, the most remarkable feature of this film is the presence of hopelessness and fate. Darkness is common in this film and is shown in the form of shadows and night time. In No Country for Old Men , the Cohen brothers use darkness and silence to dash quickly any hope that is portrayed in the film.
In the beginning of the beginning of the film, Llewelyn Moss is hunting in a field during the day time. As he continues his hunt, a large cloud approaches above him. This cloud brings in a large shadow that slowly approaches Moss. The darkness that covers Moss during his hunt foreshadows the darkness that he is getting himself into. Soon after the hunting trip, Moss stumbles upon a case containing two million dollars. Upon finding this case, Moss does not show positive expression. In fact, Moss is silent. This silence is common in the film and represents the hopelessness in the film. The Cohen brothers strategically make use of the shadows to show the evil that is about to come over Moss and the rest of the community. But even more than evil, the shadows represent the hopelessness in the film. The darkness literally comes over Moss when the cloud brings the shadow across him. Soon after, the darkness figuratively comes over Moss, as the hit-man begins his relentless search for Moss. More than that, though, the shadow that crosses over Moss in the field is inescapable, much like the pursuit of the hit-man. In the field, the cloud is much too large for Moss to avoid. Moss even appears to see the ominous shadow, which must be quite common on such days. The Cohen brothers use the darkness from the clouds to show the inescapability of evil. Thus, while many films depict evil or the constant and seemingly irresolvable battle between good and evil, No Country for Old Men depicts the much more interesting and ominous hopelessness of evil, which heavily symbolism with shadows and silence.
The contrast between light and darkness in their capacities to represent life and death in depicted in many different ways in the film. One of the most prominent ways that this contrast is portrayed is with the killings at night and failed attempts at killing during the day. For example the hitman spares the life of the shop keeper during the day after a coin flip. But most of the killings in the film occur at night. Likewise, just as it appears that Moss is going to be killed by the Mexicans who are chasing him in the desert, dawn occurs and Moss gets out of his situation. It was no coincidence that dawn occurs just at the time that it appears that Moss is all out of hope in escaping those chasing him, including a vicious dog. The Cohen brothers intentionally filmed this scene with the intention of dawn representing hope. There is substantial irony in the Cohen brothers using the daytime and the light to represent life in a film that frequently features desert settings and the Mexican-American border. There are many immigrants that attempt to cross this border and fail, often leading to death. The arid desert conditions make it highly difficult to get across alive. The daytime heating of the desert makes the daytime a highly dangerous time to cross the border in the desert. Thus, the use of light symbolizing life, although it is quite common in film and literature, is ironic when considering the setting of the film.
One example of a killing that does occur during the day is when Moss gets shot and killed. In his hotel room, Moss is gunned down. However, this scene occurs offstage. In other words, this scene is never shown in...
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