No Country for Old Men by Erich Becker
In No Country for Old Men , the Cohen brothers use darkness and silence to ash quickly any hope that is portrayed in the film. In the beginning of the beginning of the film, Lonely 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 he 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, he 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 incapability 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 Whitman 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 youngling 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 the film. The Cohen brothers, here, appear to be treating the killing of Moss as a surprise, as it is to viewers.
Up to this point, Moss is the most frequently shown character in the film. Thus, viewers would expect that if he is to be killed, he ill be killed on-screen. But there is another unexpected aspect to this killing, namely that is occurs during the day. This represents the randomness in the acts Of killing in the film. The film follows the trend that killings occur at night and in the darkness. If the killing of Moss would have been shown in the film, then it would not have been an unexpected killing and should not be considered proof of the randomness of the killings in the film.
Rather, in this case, the killing of Moss would have been considered evidence against the idea that killings in this film occur only in the night. It is the duality of the unexpectedness of this killing that makes it so surprising and supports the notion that this killing is not intended to flow with the rest of the film. The killing of Moss occurs during the night, but is not shown in the film. This should be interpreted as evidence that the Cohen brothers intended the killing to be unexpected and deliberately against the trend of killings in the film in relation to when such killings occurred.
A conversation between the sheriff and a relative further suggests that killings, in this film, are supposed to occur at night. During the course of a discussion between the past killing of another relative, the sheriff asks his relative if he died during the night or during the day. The relative states that the killing occurred at night. There is no real significance to this conversation other than to support the relationship between the time of day and the killings in the film.
The Cohen brothers intentionally used this conversation to explicitly mention this relationship. The many symbols, such as the darkness created by the shadow of the cloud in the field while Moss is hunting that depict this relationship ere apparently not enough for the Cohen brothers. They felt the need to explicate this relationship. This makes the implicit theme of this relationship explicit. Throughout the whole film, killings occur in darkness. Viewers are likely to catch on to this. It is a bit perplexing, then, that the Cohen brothers decided to make this explicit.
Perhaps, it makes use of the contrast between the social nature of normal humans, such as the sheriff, and the asocial nature of the hit-man, which will be discussed shortly. What makes the use of helplessness depicted in this movie so ominous is he senselessness of the brutality and killing by the hit-man. While the hit- man was originally hired to find the case with money by any means necessary, the way in which the hit-man approaches this task seems to suggest that the hit-man is willing to kill senselessly on a whim.
The hit-man kills many individuals in this film. Many of the killings are senseless or are at least without strong reasons for killing. Nevertheless, the most representative attempted killing by the hit-man is not an attempt to kill a person. Instead, it is the senseless shot that the hit-man takes at the bird while the hit-man rives down the highway. There is no rational reason to attempt to kill the bird while driving down the highway. This represents the sort of senseless evil present in the hit-man. Some sorts of evil involve intense greed.
But the worst sorts of evil are driven by seeming senselessness. The problem is that individuals who are willing to kill senselessly are highly unpredictable. But this senseless killing is of the sort of problem that is apparently very common in society. In fact, the sheriff in this film reads the newspaper and remarks about the ways in which individuals in society are apparently crazy. The point of the sheriff stating such remarks appears to have no other purpose than to suggest that society contains several crazy individuals, like the hit-man who kills senselessly.
As mentioned earlier, silence is employed in the film as a way for the Cohen bothers to show the hopelessness of the senseless evil in the film. However, the silence is used in the film not only to show the helplessness of the evil in the film, but also to depict the way in which the hit- man is a senseless killer. Moss states of Chirurgic, “He doesn’t talk near as much as you and like that. The hit-man does not speak often and tends to get straight to the point, asking only the most relevant questions. The hit-man appears to live by a very different set of principles as everyone else.
The hit- man is likely a psychopath, if not a sociopath. He appears to feel no remorse. This is largely depicted in the silence of this character. He speaks very little because he feels very little. Language is a social construction used, now, for a number of nonessential tasks. Language is now social and connects people. The hit-man does not need much language because he is neither social nor as feelings. The silence of the hit-man supports the hopelessness of the spread of killing in the film, much of which is senseless. Carson Wells states of Chirurgic, “Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that. The hit-man does not live by society rules and, because he does not feel empathy, can develop his own set of principles to live by. The use of darkness and silence in this film to depict hopelessness involves several symbols in the film. While the simplest interpretation of the contrast between dark and light, ND death and life, in the film involves good versus evil, going deeper into the Cohen brother’s use of darkness and lightness reveals that such use is more accurately represented as meaning that the world, at least in the film, is hopeless.