Film Analysis Paper HU-489-001 5/4/2011 Fargo, and the role of Setting Fargo, a dark and somewhat humorous crime movie by the Coen Brothers delves into themes of isolation, morality, and greed. And throughout the film, a very prominent role is played by the setting. The Coen brothers make sure that no one misses where the story takes place ??? small town upper Midwest in the middle of a frigid winter. The film makes extensive use of the frozen landscape, the characterization of rural Midwesterners, and realistic depiction of the events of the story in order to emphasize these themes.
There is a great deal of contrast in this movie between moral and amoral characters as well as contrast between what the viewer expects from such dark subject matter and how it is in fact presented. The very first shot of the film is of a barren grey snowscape as a car in the distance slowly approaches. The setting is immediately present and it sets up a feeling of a cold and emotionless environment. This car appears very small on the screen and slowly approaches the camera. So very early this feeling of isolation is brought into the film.
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The car appears small and alone in a desolate world. It gradually moves toward the screen as we are introduced to the beginning of the story. This is actually the main antagonist, Jerry Lundegaard as he tows a new car to make a deal with two criminals to kidnap his wife. This cold landscape represents well the dark intentions of this character. As the movie goes on, it becomes more obvious this character’s detachment and isolation from the rest of the world. The viewer becomes aware that Jerry is in need of a great deal of money and was attempting to get it from his wealthy father-in-law.
His first attempt is to get a loan from his father-in-law for a real estate deal. When that deal falls through, there is a shot of Jerry walking back to his car, defeated. At this point (about 0:21:30 into the movie), there is a top-down view of an empty, snow covered parking lot. Jerry appears on the screen very small and slowly makes his way toward his car, with the world apparently bearing down on him. This is a powerful image that clearly shows the crushed Jerry and his increasing feeling of solitude. Another use of the setting comes in the orm of the characterization. A big contributor to the story and feel of the film is the characterization of the characters in the film. Again, this Midwestern setting becomes obvious when the viewer hears the strong upper Midwest accents used by all the residents of rural Minnesota. Midwesterners have a reputation for being exceedingly friendly and moral, and that becomes prominent in this film where a number of less than moral actions are portrayed. Fargo therefore portrays two main types of characters: moral and amoral.
Morality is personified by Marge Gunderson, the pregnant police chief on the trail of the criminals. She portrays the stereotypical “nice” attitude in nearly all of her encounters and it takes quite a lot for her to break this demeanor. Even though she may be investigating the murder scene or interviewing suspects in the case, she maintains this even-tempered friendly attitude. This optimistic and positive outlook hides her very sharp mind for crime, and contrasts greatly with the sinister things that are taking place around her. This emphasizes the nature of the events that have come to pass.
Throughout the movie, the disparity between the demeanor of the characters and surrounding events creates a subtle humor really a second viewing of the movie to really appreciate. The amoral is represented by the two criminals hired by Jerrry to perform the kidnapping. The viewer can tell there’s a difference in characterization from the very beginning, when a very passive aggressive Jerry meets with these two shady characters who are very blunt with their points. These two obviously do not belong in the setting of the friendly small-town Midwest.
Finally, the film is portrayed with a strong sense of realism. The movie begins by displaying the text “This is a true story,” and it is evident that the directors attempted to depict the story in such a way that really highlights this realistic mindset. Mundane everyday life is portrayed throughout the movie, even those that seem inconsequential to the plot. This works to help relate with the characters and maintain a sense of realism as the plot advances. For example, Jerry’s wife has a discussion with their son about grades and him trying out for the hockey team.
While the film never touches upon this again, it helps ground the characters and create a contrast since the audience knows that Jerry has just returned from plotting his wife’s kidnapping. Lighting and sound effects are kept very minimal and simplistic. Despite the film’s very dark content, very high key, low contrast lighting is used throughout the film. Although many films in the film-noir genre will like to have a lot of shadow and high contrast to emphasize the darkness in the plot, Fargo stresses the realism.
Most scenes take place out in the open during the day, where natural light is prevalent, and therefore creates a more natural look. One of the things I noticed from the outset was the film’s extremely minimal use of music. There is very little music, usually a sort of dry, string-based theme to the movie, which is only heard sporadically throughout the film. In fact it only appears for a few seconds during scene transitions. The music is never heard during the action or dialogue during any scene. This shows that the directors chose not to supplement any scene with their idea of the intended emotion.
In this way the events of the plot are depicted very flatly without an attempt to skew them, and there is plenty of time allowed for everything to sink in. In fact this apparent lack of emotion defines many of the scenes in terms of their realism. Fargo sets up its story which is enveloped entirely by the setting. The story is portrayed as realistically as possible and the scenes are established with a strong sense of the snowy tundra that surrounds everything. The viewer feels transported into small-town Minnesota, as if they are simply viewing the real life events as they happen.
As the plot unfolds, you can’t help but be strongly affected by this realism, which emphasizes the dark events of the story without the use of standard movie effects. This setting, the characters within it, and the realism it all creates, stick with the viewer long after the movie has ended. ? Fargo: Themes: Isolation ??? use of setting, distant camera shots (long shot). Lots of barren fields, empty parking lot. Emphasize emptiness, coldness. Lack of music. Repeating showing Paul Bunyan ??? stuck in Minnesota? Cant get away. Morality ??? Use of setting. Cold weather, cold-hearted crimes? Contrast with the friendliness of Midwestern characters, i. . main character police chief. Interpersonal relationships ??? related to morality Greed ??? Jerry Lundegaard, 2 criminals, Realism ??? lighting ??? use of setting? ??? Music: very little music, does not attempt to distort or alter the emotion of the scene. Highlights emptiness. Portrayed very flatly, allows the plot to sink in. SLOW PACE ??? chronological order, does not leave out many details More on setting: Snowy, hazy, frigid, windy. Lots of empty space, frozen fields, rural Minnesota. Costumes ??? cold climate, Midwesterners. Accent ??? Strong upper Midwest accent. Paul Bunyan ??? no doubt as to where they are.