The Psychotic, the Bad and the Ugly

23/04/2012 in Alexis King, Classic, Drama, Thriller | One comment


Other film essayists might reach for a holy trinity firmly founded in a Roman form of Christianity within Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2007 neo-western; No Country for Old Men.

The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

Something alike to; Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Ed Tom Bell as the father, Josh Brolin’s Llewellyn Moss the son and Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh the holy ghost or even being likened to the devil or made the personification of the ‘anti-christ’.

These corrupted assertions and ‘bedtime story’ movie interpretations of what a mere man is are bunk in no small part because they are predicated on the grossest of lies as to what Jesus Christ is to then know anything of an opposer or of those who would wholly embody this kind of dark energy.

But then they would be because they are offered from the same consciousness that this very film is attempting to show us is impaired. However, alike to the conception behind that trinity we are being shown renditions of the same energy in various phases.

The key lies in the identification of Woody Harrelson’s Carson Wells as a 4th phase, and this unlocks for us that what we are watching is a rendering of the cycle of the sun; more specifically the dark aspect of the sun since none of the characters are truly benevolent.

Moss is the rising. Although unsteady in this west Texas world of criminality he is becoming and clearly has all the determination and energy to ascend and maintain, yet alike to the climbing sun he will only go so far.

Chigurh is the midday sun. Savage. Intense. Relentless. Pure.

Ed Tom Bell is the setting representing something that was once as vital and back in the wilder days of the west equally violent but is now in decline.

Wells is the descended sun at night indicated by his ‘retirement’. He is completely aware of Chigurh and his ‘principles’ with this intimate knowing making him both a shadow and an adversary.

So the Coen brothers present the timeless story of good versus evil that is at once one of duality and at the exact same time merely a perpetual wheel in motion, one wheel, its just that like all great story tellers they invert and disguise it masterfully through the art of film.

Here’s how…

Josh Brolin as Llewellyn Moss in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men presents us with the notion that ‘Every fortune leaves a trail’. So, for this analysis, and as much as this writer is able to discern, lets take this at its word; that word being every.

It might easily be recognized by the majority that an earthly fortune be represented by riches, though this is relative. Where for Llewellyn Moss a bag of 2 million dollars would be so described, for some people, and beyond the fiction of cinema, this would be peanuts for others it would be meaningless.

To dispense with any stratification, lets take for example those who would covet the biggest piles of gold. For in so doing their actions, seen through a much more intricate, much older mirror are those we see swiftly consuming Moss.

The Coens are tipping us the wink as to what possession of the ultimate material fortune must entail, and the effect that the actions and consolidation methods of an earthly elite have had in extant pursuit of such a thing. Chief among them; psychopathy.

Once the psychopaths path is set they are not for turning, they will instead compound lies and falsehoods regardless of the cliffs they plunge over, who or what they take down with them or what consequences arise.

The very concept of consequence is not acknowledged, only more instances, opportunities and catastrophes which after time take on the illusion of being as natural, even intended.

Learning via empathy to knowledge is exchanged for mimicry by acute observation and emotion destroyed in favor of sensation to achieve only maintenance and survival.

With this in mind lets address the fact that Moss is no less psychopathic than Chigurh, merely less adept.

Josh Brolin as Llewellyn Moss in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

Amongst other actions in support of this we witness Moss leaving a dying man to perish, opportunistically taking a large amount of bag money from a crime scene, trading his own wife’s life for that money, animal slaughter, seemingly being unaware of the death of his own mother, continuing to attempt to face Chigurh down, to threaten and shoot at him, unknowing of who he is who he represents or who else might be proceeding in Chigurh’s wake.

Moss’ confession to military service at border control is the only passport he needs to be re-admitted from Mexico back into the United States. Being a survivor of two tours of the ritual slaughter of young men that was the Vietnam war, his government operative psychopathic training and credentials intact might also be an allusion to his being a possessor of the ‘hero gene’.

We see then in Moss the aptitudes favored by those who covet things material. For the real world elite seek this first and foremost beginning from amongst their own gene pool in a centuries old distillation of such inherent qualities.

Should one not be chosen for succession by the ordered process of heirarchy contained within Roman, royal or banking elites then force, often deadly and even against nearest kin, has been easily dealt to overcome obstacles to eminence.

Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini and most recently Mitt Romney have sighted providence as their guide or would be. Hitler’s alleged ideology including open reverence for the black sun, embodied in the inverted swaztika; the broken cross, and it is this deadly energy that appears to prompt Chigurh’s actions in a kind of dutiful obedience.

In contrast to Moss he is the finished psychotic article. Ideal. Polished. Efficient. So dissociated is he that he views events, even those by his own hand, seemingly far beyond his control, at best a coin toss and even then the victims choice.

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

Duty then, in turn, is a further recess for the psychopath providing the perfect harbour from the raging seas of responsibility. Monarchs speak of duty, as do military zombies and Nuremburg Nazis.

Chigurh, as an agent of providence, a man following a ‘rule’, repeatedly asks that his victims ‘call it’. This is akin to the necessity for Jason Patric to invite the head vampire over his mother’s threshold in Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987), after that choice to acquiesce all bets are off.

Becoming accustomed with regularity to psychotic movie murderers, often in guises other than contemporary men, such as cyborgs, orcs or mutants we have become subconsciously accepting of the psycho-pathology of some apparently more benign ‘screen idols’; our real world political ‘leaders’, the CEOs, and other cultural icons that one might more appropriately refer to as the ‘peoples champions’.

Few will ever physically meet those in current positions of control yet in our remote access reality, and since the dawn of TV, they can see them, hear them, feel they know them, build up misplaced relationships with them and this has become integral since an actor was cast, within 1 year of this film’s setting, in the role of President of the United States.

As such a baby holding, charming, grinning, quipping, auto-cue reading, suit wearing, often bloodline connected lieutenant to the elites is made less the psychopath to our conscious awareness despite the reality of their being infinitely more lethal than any celluloid super soldier, diaphanous android or film flailer.

On the surface Moss and Chigurh would appear to be motivated to their actions autonomously just like the ‘peoples champions’ of our world, but in both cases a higher hand manipulates the puppet, not least existentially in the case of the film characters via their actor’s portrayal and the Coens’ direction.

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

So what of the the other half of our cycle of the Black sun of psychopathy through the border towns of 1980s west Texas, the Autumnal Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, and the agent of concealed office Carson Wells?

Again one only has to look to the proxies of the elite in the real world to find reflection in those who are perhaps not born to psychopathy, but who learn it.

The ones who undergo initiation to orders, swear oaths of office, become ministers, those who wear badges or undertake secret rituals in clandestine groups to assist perpetuation of the lie, where not allied through blood they offer allegiance through doctrine, dogma and willing.

The psychopath in uniform is the flagrant operative of the state or corporation and is therefore contracted, sponsored or privately hired. Ultimately these are pyramids within the same larger pyramid atop which are the insane figureheads of a millennia old lineage of psychopathy, made ‘leaders’ by their recognition of ‘advantage’ to be had over others by manipulation of them, systemic control of them, eradication of them.

The one saving grace for the operative is that they are not permanently physiologically altered by their indoctrination and it is often only their ignorance and compartmentalisation that keeps them bound.

Being such an agent, incidentally with authority higher than any police, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell states that “…he (Moss) has seen all the same things I’ve seen and it’s certainly made an impression on me“, suggesting that they might in some sense be kindred.

As he makes this observation Sheriff Bell re-enacts the same steps as Chigurh in Moss’ trailer, sitting in the same seat, drinking the same milk, framing his silhouette against the same window to reflect on the same TV set, at once linking all three men in one pathology.

They are one, they have all seen the same things, they are all party to the same self betrayal.

Josh Brolin as Llewellyn Moss and Kelly MacDonald as Carla Jean in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

Moss merely has not the experience of Bell nor the clinical efficiency of Chigurh, and Bell can’t speak of Chigurh because he knows nothing of that which goes on before him.

Conforming to film orthodoxies Moss is the far from eloquent, trailer park dwelling, everyman protagonist, mainly monosyllabic of his actions and motives and in fact mostly silent, and so is perceived in accordance with the audiences trained responses to cinematic archetypes to be; ‘the good’.

Alike to Clint Eastwood’s various iterations of the man with no name, the man with no words seems always, in both the world’s of Texas and the western, to be redeemable by the viewer’s moral projections onto such verbal reluctance.

By contrast Chigurh is patently maven in his violence, less hesitant to murder and quicker to repetition. This diffusion does not halt at his acts either as we are presented with repeated instances of salient articulation with both victims and near victims.

Are the actions and the utterances mutually exclusive when an archetype is presented that draws an audiences marker for the antagonist, the evil doer, the bad? (This combination of atrocities and discourse alone would cite Bardem’s potential as Bond villain for Skyfall)

Further, it also raises the most chilling aspect of Chigurh’s fierce and glaring type of psychopathy. His type of mental processing and subsequent behaviour is such that it blinds even the professional critics of film forcing them to look away to escape routes to explain in ‘other worldly’ terms his nature.

This is the literary equivalent of imploring that they, the directors Coen, having brought each viewer’s and critic’s life path to Chigurh ‘…don’t have to do this‘.

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

In a movie that in every other aspect is paired down and stripped of stylistics or artifice these kind of supernatural eulogies to demonic proportions belie the fear that is instilled in the possibility that such a figure might after all be merely human. A human demonstrative of very evident aspects of this earthly experience that abound for those who have eyes to see, and therefore are part of each and every one of us in this world.

Likewise Chigurh’s dogmatic consistency is no puzzle, no confusion that doctrine begets morality however contorted, no surprise that only a logic so imbalanced would have made conscience and empathy its first victims. This self murder teems in humanity to a greater or lesser degree, it is simply that in Chigurh it has been unbound, and continues to be so.

Movie lore would place us under the impression that Moss & Chigurh are opposites just because they are antagonistic only now we see that this is not true. Although all four of the main sun aspect characters are really one, it is Carson Wells who is a more truly oppositional rival to Chigurh.

The psychopathy of Woody Harrelson’s Carson Wells presents immediately we learn that without much deliberation he will willingly come out of ‘retirement’ and accept agency to retrieve the money. By so doing to incite a man who by his own definition is comparably as lethal as the ‘bubonic plague’.

Wells is a man who remembers “…dates, names and numbers“, a man appearing to act for a clandestine agency, maybe even of the government, whose office is hidden on a secret floor of a Houston tower block, that appears itself to be engaged in the very drug deal gone wrong AND who have made a grave error of judgment in employing Chigurh to retrieve the money originally.

Do we need more evidence than for Wells to ask Chigurh, a known commodity to him unlike to the ignorant Moss, and at the point of a silenced shotgun, “Do you have any idea how goddamn crazy you are?”

Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

To most viewers Chigurh is clearly insane, Bardem’s ultra expressionless hyper-controlled demeanor and relentless and frequent crimes convince us immediately of this, but does Wells’ question, its timing, and his being a direct shadow of Chigurh portray a person any less deranged?

Chigurh does not answer this question because he cannot. What psychopath can empathise to picture themselves mad?

By now we have become fully immersed in the indoctrination torrents of secondary psychopathy that are loose like a Pit Bull pursuing us as we go on the run through the Coen Brothers lone star state.

These being, but not limited to, moral relativism, social Darwinism and eugenics.

The presentation of a cast of characters that were you to be offered any one of them in reality through first hand experience or even via media reports would undoubtedly leave a person petrified or at the least intimidated belies the relativity that through the cinema screen such perceptions are transmuted to those of intrigue, fetish even admiration.

Social Darwinism is made evident through Chigurh’s survival. Seemingly beyond the black out, he goes un-apprehended, unpunished, unchanged. On the surface this would support the facile premise for ‘survival of the fittest’, as all around him others perish.

Though most often at his hand making him akin to ‘top predator’, about him gangsters, lawmen, immigrants, women, the opportunistic, the retired, the lascivious, the diseased, drop like flies. Justification enough for the social Darwinist as evidence of their ‘impurity’.

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

Bardem himself yielded in interview that he conceived of Chigurh as a man who had never had sex and was disgusted by the ‘fluids’ of the human body, implying a kind of twisted hyper-morality, perhaps even a proto trans-humanist perspective.

In our techno-tronic environment that we are constantly implored to believe is ‘natural’ and original, like the western is to movies, yet is increasingly far from it, what warped sense do we use to define those who appear ‘fittest’ for survival within it?

Do not in fact exponents and adepts of the natural fallacy abound throughout religion, politics, corporations, law, medicine, media, technology, surveillance, food, fashion and more?

If the sport is deceive, manipulate, defraud, extort and murder would those on top of their game see themselves as anything other than champions, advanced, premier, destined, even divine?

The seeming ‘selection’ at the hands of a clinical murderer might frame No Country for Old Men as a kind of eugenics commentary still appropriate if the word old is displaced equally by ethical, immoral, ignorant, timid, uneducated, introspective, immigrant, intuitive, conscientious, lawful perhaps any limiting belief offered in an adjective. For the only logical conclusion of the actions of the eugenicist is to eventually kill us all.

Along with people the psychopath must destroy anything akin to goodness. He cannot accept favours or kindness or anything akin to Love. This must be subdued at all costs as it has been annihilated internally. The simplest way to do this is through trade or exchange so as never to ‘owe’ anyone or to be in their debt.

This is evidenced both by Chigurh’s self suturing and his insistence to purchase the boy’s shirt with which to fashion a rudimentary sling for his compound fractured arm, rather than have to face his own emptiness at not being able to reflect the boys compassion to give.

These in turn are a mirror of Moss’ earlier purchase of a jacket from a youth at the border crossing and premature self discharge from hospital rather than readily accept and be thankful for any help.

Josh Brolin as Llewellyn Moss in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

In fact money, as the blood flowing through the veins of the current paradigm, is the most ubiquitous and ambiguous of corruption mechanisms.

As an abstract parallel the, unlawful, requirement to hold a license in the United Kingdom to watch TV is a psychopathic control mechanism, taken as the viewer’s acceptance to receive everything that the issuer deems themselves judge and jury then to dispense. For the BBC, the only entity that is the beneficiary of these license fees, and its equitable title holders, this is covenant.

A psychopathic entity will achieve their intent or call in their debts or trespasses according to their own scales of justice upon those who they deem ‘accountable’ sometimes fraudulently, and in No Country for Old Men frequently and with lethal force.

As such the highly controlled, intelligent, logical, and organized psychopath and psychopathic institutions will steal the march on the hapless, even another more opportunistic psychopath and being free of all conscience will engage in behaviors and acts that the ethically attuned individual or movement, even possessed of some questionable morals, will resist.

Through their fragment of the film makers mirror then, the Coens reflect to us the obfuscated protagonists and their methods from our own world, not least by setting their allegory in the political homeland of 2007’s big rooster, himself a card carrying member of the insane in-club.

Sheriff Bell’s deputy; Wendell states on surveying the desert scene of corpses that “Its a mess ain’t it Sheriff” to which Tommy Lee Jones’ gnarled lawman responds, perhaps to all of us beyond the confines of the silver screen “If it ain’t it’ll do til the mess gets here“.

For that is what the psychopathic elites have left us with; a mess.

Josh Brolin as Llewellyn Moss in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

In so doing what is it that these entities have needed to make obscure in their pursuit of total planetary dominion? What do they seek to destroy through this systematic eradication of the ethical man replaced by the dogmatic one? What truth have they exchanged for lies? What nature do they counterfeit with science?

What of the trail left then by an infinitely larger fortune? One so fantastic and unfathomable as to make the idea of material wealth pale in comparison?

The kind of thing that for those fortunate enough to realise it makes the pig pen of materialism fittingly positioned in the farmyard mentality that it remains held in.

What could it be, so powerful, so true, so evident that if it takes this much intricacy of ongoing insanity to hold down can only be magnificent when it is set free?

We only need citation of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell’s dreams to sum up perfectly. Both contain his father.

In the first his father has a large sum of money for him that he never receives. Material wealth. For one can only take possession of that which comes down from the ether if you first make a man a god. By so doing you create the very foundation of the lie, that which can never be achieved, and so must and does elude Bell in this dream.

In the second his father was ‘… goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all the dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there‘. Warmth, light, life, comfort, home, trust, love, and the possibility of redemption.

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in The Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men

If Bell represents the dying sun and in the dreams relates to his father, then who must his father represent?

Akin then to Anton Chigurh being no demon, nor any real world megalomaniac an anti-Christ, merely men, sick men, but men nonetheless, no man is, ever has been, nor ever will be a God.

At least… not in the way that you mean.

Available at Amazon

No Country for Old Men (2007) – Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen.

Images courtesy of Paramount Vantage & Miramax Films.

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