Fargo – dir.Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996

Snow can be so sinister. The cinema has so subtly dichotomised snow that while one might think it most synonymous with all the toasty, twinkling, cold snaps of Christmas, it has, in actual fact, played its part in the darkness too. As a preliminary cause of Jacks spiral into madness in The Shining, the snow caused entrapment and isolation, in cutting the Hotel off from the outside world.  In Fargo, the Coen brothers, use snow as a literal canvas, a white expanse on which they play out their dark and comic story.  Like the haze around the moon, it’s bright white glow, illuminates all the darkness.  The white lets the blood show up, it soaks into the snow, like a sponge absorbing the traces of these dead beats’ peccadilloes. The snow also conceals, and thus has its part in dishing out the ultimate retribution. When Carl (Steve Buscemi) hides the ransom money, he chooses to bury it in the snow, but he is dead before he recovers it.  Somewhere buried in the still white fields is what all the bloody murder was for.  Now it gently scorns with an inanimate silence, the bloodied, dirty actions it has been witness to, as an unwilling apprentice.  As pregnant cop Margie (Frances McDormand) tells the ‘mute’ psychopathic criminal Gaear (Peter Stormare), there’s more to life than money you know.  Fargo has countless comedic moments to counteract the grim and gore but what is so brilliant is that they are also the most disturbing scenes.  When Jerry Lundegaard’s (William H. Macy) wife first sees her abductor at the window, it is inexplicably amusing to see her watching the masked figure look through the window cupping his hands to find his victim.  Strange that terror and fear could promote such a reaction, but that is what the Coens do, they warp humanity until you don’t know what side of good and bad you might be on.  The Minnesota nice that floods the lingo of the film enhances the crass vulgarity of the criminal’s potty mouths, yet it also masks the somewhat disturbed character Jerry, who hides behind it to cloak a rather more dangerous character.  Though Jerry seems to explode at several points throughout the film, it is his final appearance, writhing and crying out on a motel bed to get away from the police, a broken and finished man, that is the most uncomfortable scene of all.



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