No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men discussion

book vs movie

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Minnie I have a question that only someone who has read both the book and seen the movie can answer. The movie is at present being advertised and one of the most frequent comments is that the killer (in the movie) has a sense of humour. maybe i misunderstood or perhaps skipped over the funny bits but in the book the killer frightened me and never ever did he even make me think of smiling. Is this just a Coen brothers take on the character or did I miss the plot?

Minnie thanks Sarah. Now I'm wondering, why is it being advertised in this way? Is it because the Coen brothers are known for their quirky take on life or is it just plain outright deception on the part of the distributors to get buts in seats?

Richard For a while now I have been working with the paradigm that commercial previews are just following a formula to attract ticket-buyers, even if that formula demands that the movie be totally misrepresented. Slaves of New York was promoted as though it was another Titanic. Lady in the Water was promoted as another Sixth Sense--previews and commercials are now mostly about sales, little about faithful promotion.

Colleen Graves I don't think he's meant to be funny. However, sometimes the things that come out of his mouth are so sick and twisted that some of us laugh. Like in the beginning of the book when he's in the police car and he pulls that guy over and he asks him to get out of the car, and the guy says, "Why?" and then Chigurh shoots him and says, "Because I didn't you getting blood on the seat." It made me laugh from the shock....(like Chuck Palaniuk books)

message 5: by Minnie (last edited Jan 25, 2008 04:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Minnie I agree with you. however I think he sees himself as practical and although we might laugh, against our better judgment almost, I don't think he has a sense of humor in the true sense of the word. And I'm not sure that he could be portrayed as a villain "with a sense of humor' in an ad for the movie.


In general I agree with everyone here. Chigurh I think is portrayed as faithfully as possible. There are moments, however, were he seems at first glance to take a certain satisfaction, if not outright humour, in his activities.

For example, in the scene at the gas-station: There's definitely a measure of taunting in his conversation with the gas-man. When I read this in the novel I pictured a kind of aggressive curiosity in his questioning. In the film he seems to be enjoying intimidating the man. Not wrong, just a different interpretation.

Also, in the scene where he follows Wells up the stairs, he gives him a kind of half-smile. Satisfaction. Again, this could be interpreted as an almost conspiratorial grin, suggesting humour. But I more read it more an imitation of what he considers to natural response to seeing someone he knows from the past, and an indication of his lack of understanding of natural interaction between a killer and prey. Totally sociopathic.

message 7: by Kate (last edited Feb 20, 2008 01:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kate Lots of interesting comments here!

I would tell anybody who is interested in reading the book to just go for it -- as someone else pointed it, it's very short -- just 300 pages of large-type.

I did think the movie was better. Never read other books by C. McCarthy but his prose style drove me CRAZY. No quotations for any dialouge and I had to do that THING, often, when you had to go back and count in order to make sure you're putting the right words in the right peoples' mouths. Other times, McCarthy just referred to "him," and it took me a bit to figure out whom he meant! I mean, I know he was going for sort of a minimalist, perhaps naturalistic feel, but I don't think the reader should have to work that hard...

I was disappointed in the book. But this was, perhaps, because the Coen brothers did such a good job adapting it? I mean, esp. as regards the first part of the novel, which the movie seemed to emulate frame-by-frame practically, I felt cheated out of what I had hoped for... more background information on the characters and explanations for actions, and possibly even scenes that didn't make it into the movie (a handful of which would come later in the book).

I also couldn't help but wondering what I would have thought of the book if I hadn't seen the movie. I think I still would not have liked the book much - but it was hard to picture reading it and benefiting from the suspense. I do know I would have thought the movie adaption was good. I think if this movie doesn't win Best Picture, it will simply be because it's been over-hyped.

Re: humor in the book/movie-- hard to believe that promoters would "play up" that aspect! Because any humor is slim, indeed, and def. of the dark kind. Then again, a lot of people thought "Fargo" was funny. Me, not so much. But I think certain lines Anton says are... if not funny... ironic in a way that if the situation was not so dire you WOULD laugh? I'm thinking esp. of the scene where Anton confronts Carla Jean and she is so distressed about being behind in bills and now she has to pay for the funeral, too -- and Anton says, almost kindly, "I wouldn't worry about it."

Strange, too, because in the movie, since she chose NOT to "call" heads or tails when he flipped the coin, I thought maybe he would spare her, but apparently not. But I was disappointed that she chose a side (heads or tails) in the book.

Two more things (!) -- what did people think of the corny things Moss (and actually, Bell, too) was always thinking or saying? It gave the movie such a surreal feeling to me, though sometimes... well, it did come off as corny. Like, the words weren't particularly witty but nevertheless you couldn't picture anyone saying them. I'm thinking particularly of when Moss first leaves the trailer to deliver the water and he says to Carla Jean (paraphrase): "If I don't come back, tell my mother 'hi.'" "But your mother's dead." "Then maybe I'll tell her myself."
I wasn't sure what these sayings were supposed to mean (about the characters), particulary in the book. In the movie, I think they worked well to make the world of the movie seem surreal.

Also (definite spoiler here) -- I thought it was interesting that there was the scene of Moss and the red-haired hitchhiker girl in the book (and not in the movie). I could DEF. see, though, why the Coen brothers didn't include her, but I believe her purpose in the book was to show through her short relatinship with Moss that he actually is a good guy. He certainly could have taken advantage of that situation - I think she even assumed he would. But it didn't seem to occur to him (except in the sense of warning her others might not act as he did). Since Moss taking the money has us on the fence about his character, I think the red-headed girl was meant to show us what kind of man he is when no one (save God) is watching and he has nothing to lose or gain from a situation.

message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason As I remember the movie, the coin scene with the wife is cut away from, so the audience never really sees if she ends up calling it or not. It cuts to the outside of the house and we don't even hear the gunshot, but he does check his feet for blood on the porch. Perhaps she didn't call it and he killed her anyway. Perhaps the Coens believed that even if she had called it correctly he would have broken his own rule and killed her anyway. On the other hand, it leaves the audience with a stronger image of her, and this last moment of hers really pushes her into a concrete, less two-dimensional character.

I have not read the book, but having read a couple of his other books I guessed that the Coen brothers did a pretty decent job. The feelings I was left with at the end of the film were spot on to how his work makes me feel. I've never had this experience where I just KNEW they had done a good job without having read their source. Usually it's easy to tell when a film is done horribly even if you haven't read the book. They did an excellent job catching his mood, and now I look forward to enjoying the book in its own way.

Kate Jason:

What books have you read by C. McCarthy? I believe I had heard that "No Country..." was a bit different from his other ones. I was quite hard on the aforementioned book in terms of punctuation, and wondered if that's his usual modus operandi (did I spell that right :)?

message 10: by Jason (new)

Jason I've read Blood Meridian and Suttree, which are earlier works of his, so perhaps this is quite different. It takes place in a completely different time period, for one thing. Suttree is during the depression (i'm actually not sure about this, but it felt like the 30s) and Blood Meridian is 19th century.

Those two, however, were very similar to me in tone and message, even if the subject matter was drastically different. I've read bits of The Road and from what I've heard has the same desolate feeling of these others, if maybe presented in a starker less poetic style. The punctuation thing is his personal style. I believe he writes all his books like that.

Rachel Derrico I saw no sense of humour in Chirragh in either the book or the movie. Where is the sense of humour demosntrated in the movie?

message 12: by Ari (last edited Mar 04, 2008 09:13PM) (new) - added it

Ari The killer in the movie had no sense of humor, and one of the characters even mentions that. Javier Bardem was absolutely chilling in the role of the killer. He scared me.

I think the Coen brothers are geniuses...and although I haven't read the book yet, I thought the movie was really really good. I found myself weeping at the end, when the Tommy Lee Jones' character is describing his dream about his father to his wife. I don't know why, it just hit me as so damn sad.

Minnie Hi Rachel
Graveskull and Pierce (see above) make a fair case for saying that Chigurh has an alternate way of looking at events which does sound funny. But I still feel that he would not consider himself as funny nor do I think he is trying to be funny. He is merely being pragmatic. If I were to compare him to Hannibal Lecter, I would say that Hannibal has a sense of humour and uses it. Chigurh is to my mind the most unvarnished evil person that has ever graced a book and the good people are no match for him. The Sheriff at one stage says that he feels beaten (or words to that effect) and I think that is what Chigurh does, he beats hope out of you.

Taylor He has a slight sense of humor - but it's a dark sense of humor. Him not wanting to get blood on the car is the best example that comes to mind, but there were some other small things in the book, I feel, though I don't remember particulars.

message 15: by Kate (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kate I think the consensus is that an ad or promo that hints Bardem's character has a sense of humor is going to set up people for some serious disappointment.

PS: SO glad that Bardem won the Oscar!

One more thing: Don't know if anyone here has read Stephen King, but there is an uber-villain featured in the book, "The Stand" by the name of Randall Flagg. He is completely frightening and at times during, "No Country..." (via Bardem) I was reminded of his vibe and the sense of doom and hopelessness that comes about if such a man (or woman) wants you dead.

Minnie So now i have also seen the movie and well, the humorous Chigurh passed me by! by the way anybody ever heard of such a strange surname?
I enjoyed the movie very much, i particularly loved the laconic way in which all the characters spoke. that one fat lady at the trailer park was a gem! the scenery was evocative and that constant little wind moving the curtains was a perfect touch. I am surprised Tommy Lee wasn't nominated for an oscar, he was brilliant and exactly how I imagined the sheriff to be. But in fairness, I enjoyed the book much more.

Sharon Interesting ideas. I have to vote for no humor--none--no redemption, and no light or hope either. This is why the novel (and movie) haunt me. I was fascinated because the novel (and movie) paint a barren moral landscape, which actually prevails. The quarter toss scene in the store was masterfully done because Bardem's character has a sense of world-weariness about him. He's like an Ayn Rand character who thinks, "I must rid the world of such pathetic people who dare break into my privacy by acting friendly--because they make me Tired." The building tension in that scene is flawless.
I had placed this character beside Shakespeare's Iago and Lecter in "Silence..." as my most purely evil of all evil characters, but I have to agree with the above comment referring to Hannibal's sardonic humor, his sense of enjoyment while playing with people's minds. So, Chigurh wins top billing for me as a man who has no soul. I found nothing humorous along any road in either book or movie. Even when I wanted to laugh (the sheriff, etc), McCarthy pulls me back sharply to the edge of fear, gloom, and doom. Amazing.
It's also interesting to me that "Crash," another amazing movie that calls attention to our still-after-all-these-years prejudices and weak situational ethics, wins best picture. I challenge anyone to watch "Crash" and not feel shame for ourselves and our country. "No Country..." takes many well-deserving awards this year. Now I'm wondering what this particular movie says about us?

Robert The adaptation is good. The movie only strays a little from the book. Watch the movie first and you will think "what the hell!" then read the novel and the feeling of what the hell goes away at little. Not by much :D

message 19: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore I'm not sure I would classify Anton Chigurh (sp?) as humorous. I saw the movie and read the book. As a crime fiction fan, I enjoy a villain like Chigurh: tough, cold, calculating, resourceful. To me, it makes them scarier when they can hurt people in such a cold way and makes them remorseless. To better describe him, I would classify him like a Great White shark. That's more like what he reminded me of.

message 20: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa McCarthy's books are designed typographically to maximize suspense. The drugstore coin-toss scene in the movie doesn't stand up to the tension of the same scene in the book, mainly because McCarthy's writing and his publisher's book design are so tight. There is a terrible sense of foreboding as one turns the page. He accomplishes this same sense of terror by manipulating page design in The Road. Here, the father and son descend into dark, forbidding spaces more than once at the bottom of a page to terrifying effect. This spacial awareness creates a uniquely unsettling experience for the reader.
At times like this, I remind myself that the movie is a completely different work of art than the novel.

Leonard Each format of the story is almost the same as the other. The book is almost exactly like the movie. I'd have to say the movies better. At least u can see all the stuff from the book visually in front of you. Plus its what introduced me to Cormac's works!

Vinyessa I think the Cohen bros were trying to glorify Anton Chigurh, and did a really great job at it. People love to root for the badass.

But overall, this movie was well adapted.

Charles Just read the book then saw the movie. Must say that this is my least favorite McCarthy book so far. I enjoyed it and got carried away by the story and found the characters interesting, but it wasn't life changing like Blood Meridian, The Crossing, or The Road. Unlike The Judge in Blood Meridian, a bad guy for the ages, and a complex personification of evil, Chigurh was very one-dimensional and simplistic. Like a machine. Maybe that was the point, but I really was never on the edge of my seat while reading the book or watching the movie.

That said, I thought the movie adaptation of the book was about as good as an adaptation can be. Very true to the story (without being 4 hours long)and accurate in scene, setting and dialogue. I'd love to see a Cohen Brothers version of the truly epic McCarthy books. I think McCarthy's landscapes, his really far out characters, and his rambling, sometimes non-existent plot lines, are tailor made for the Cohens.

Michael (Mike) Book was good. Movie followed it fairly well. My review is posted.

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