Why Anton Chigurh in ‘No Country for Old Men’ is death

2007 by Joel and Ethan Coen on the Cormac McCarthy novel There is no country for old people is a masterpiece. Winner of dozens of awards, 14 years later, the film has aged like fine wine. It mixes up the themes of fate, conscience, and circumstance that the brothers had explored in their previous films. Simple Blood, Elevate Arizona and Fargo and perfects them.

Certainly, much is owed to the original story of one of the greatest literary masters, McCarthy. He is the king of modern nihilism, and both the novel and the film adaptation of There is no country for old people, to offer a critical look at human existence and the contemporary world in general.

Seemingly labeled as a dark take on modernity, it can also be seen as a Gnostic discussion that challenges the organized and deeply rooted Christianity that is so pervasive in American society. In addition, we must not forget that There is no country for old people is a period piece in itself, written in the weary post 9/11 world. Set in the ’80s, this is an effective way to bring users back to the days when neoliberalism and technology was starting to take hold. It takes us back to the days when our very distinctly modern problems began to proliferate.

In 2009, McCarthy summed up the violence in his work, positioning himself as a sort of modern successor to Thomas Hobbes. He said, “There is no life without bloodshed. The idea that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone can live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first to give up their soul, their freedom. Your desire for it to be so will enslave you and make your life empty.

We will all die. There is no escape from the violence inherent in life. The conduit for this theme is Javier Bardem’s antagonist, Anton Chigurh. This is where the real sparkle of the film lies. In the pages of the novel, Chigurh is a creepy and opaque character of unknown origin, who is augmented by the film. Since the film popularized the book’s themes, a well-known fan theory has developed that claims that Chigurh is in fact the embodiment of the Angel of Death, which is very clear upon re-reading.

He’s not aesthetically bad in pantomime style like Lord Voldemort or Darth Sidious, and it’s this austere adaptation of Chigurh’s character that makes him so creepy. Many parallels have been drawn between his portrayal and the personification of death by Bengt Ekerot in the years 1957. The seventh seal. With a bowl cup serving as a hood, dressed in black and using the cattle pistol instead of the scythe, Chigurh is death incarnate.

Plus, the way the Coens changed their eyes from the deepest blue to dark brown was a masterstroke. There are many other signifiers which suggest that he is the servant of the avenging God of the Old Testament who came to punish the generalized greed of mankind and its multiple manifestations such as drug trafficking.

The theory also explains the cold killings of its prey by Chigurh. It does it naturally, as if it were nothing, like a bodily function. The heartbreaking scene where he holds the life of the manager of the gas station by a toss speaks volumes.

If we write down his talk to the attendant, his biblical background emerges: “What have you ever lost the most in the toss? To call. Just call it. You have to call him. I can’t call her for you, or it wouldn’t be fair. (…) Yes you can. You’ve been putting it in place your whole life, you just didn’t know it. Do you know what date is on this coin? 1958. He traveled twenty-two years to get here. And now it’s here. And it’s either a coin toss. And it must be said. To call. You are there to win it all. To call.”

A menacing force from the Old Testament, the more you read about Chigurh and compare him to the Angel of Death, the more his purpose seems to make sense.

Watch a compilation of Chigurh below.


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