I have recently watched Cormac McCarthy’s “The Counselor” and that’s why I decided to pay due attention to his”and the Coen brothers’ “No country for old men”. A true hunter-prey classic tale about life…
I’ll start from the ending, where sheriff Bell shares his two dreams – the first about losing the money that his father (also a sheriff) gave him and the second about his ride along with his father. I can truly connect to this metaphor. It is a vivid vehicle for the directors and the script – our fears, hopes and thoughts are all reflected in our dreams. And the dream to follow into his father’s steps became kind of a nightmare (losing the money his father gave him) for Bell. But the true message which we receive through this insightful movie is the moral of the second dream. You see, the title of this film comes from the 20th century dramatist William Butler Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium”. It goes like this:
“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect”
“Those dying generations” are Bell, his father, his uncle and his grandfather who were all sheriffs at the depicted parts of West Texas. And their covenant is fading and will ultimately be lost. The weary and old sheriff is overwhelmed by his own incapacity to deal with the new generation of crime and loathing. His uncle Ellis reminds him that these parts have always been wild and violent. Despite this Bell feels like his grasp is not firm enough and that he is heading where his father “awaits”. After all his efforts to help Llewelyn Moss despite his fear, he ends up finding him dead. And he feels like there is nothing he can do about it. That people like Anton Chigurh and the Mexican drug cartel members overmatch him with their boundless discontentment. That law and order are already lost and he can do nothing but stay away from this world of the hunters and their prey. I think that this is exactly why at the end of this movie he has accepted his part as the one who will inevitably fade away like a dinosaur, like an “old man”. Failure is weighing above his consciousness. And that’s why after his retirement he is more content, troubled only by his dreams, reflecting on his past where he sees no future for individuals like himself.
This is a very interesting juxtaposition – between the feeling of moral codes passing and the sense that since ancient times people have always been the same, that we are living in a circle of discontentment. This is both eerie and assuring to me. What do you think?
And in the end I just want to add my utter admiration of Cormac McCarthy’s books which show us our violent nature of selfishly deluded living beings. The stories are mature and absorbing. Reassuring that there is no white and black, only gray in our lives. The script is precise in tension, with thrilling sound and camera work. The imagery is both beautiful and a bit hopeless. I felt some of these aspects in “The Counselor” too, but then again Ridley Scott and The Coen brothers are two very different categories.