One of the most awaited series of the year, Fargo, has reached its final episode last week. Berlin Film Journal revisited one of our favorite films in the attempt to define what it is that can make a series match or even overcome the original.
Some may question the logic behind making a series on a basis of a well-known movie, even if we’re talking about an Oscar winner. Ironically, the answer was given by one of the characters in Fargo: “The morgue is full of guys who didn’t think they needed life insurance,” – says Lester to his clients. To those who have not yet seen this fantastic series we bring five strong reasons to watch and love the new edition of absurd violence and dark humor.
Snowy landscapes were definitely contrasted by the actual weather over the course of ten weeks, throughout the show’s run. Nevertheless, the first shot of white fields in Minnesota grabs our attention, as the cold background of the sleepy winter landscape correlates with the sleepy, boring nature of the town inhabitants. The small city of Bemidji is a good example of the well-known “still waters run deep” adage. And if you have been waiting to see some lighthearted TV, Fargo would have been the wrong choice-it is a fulminate detective drama full of black humor and biting irony in the spirit of Coen brothers. Underscored aesthetic of every shot plays differently to this year’s another impressive series, True Detective. The mise-en-scéne in Fargo resonates more with the events. The cosy house and routine washing machine is replaced by the hammer in the husband’s hand, perfectly conveying the idea that “the routine of family life kills relationships”? Along with the music and the unhurried scenes, hopelessness and routine helped make the series truly frightening.
2. Life as it is
The charm of Fargo comes from life as it is. There is no good and evil: positive characters annoy through their limitations, banality and indecisiveness, while the baddies have philosophical conversations and explain the inner workings of the world. Duality and imperfection of human nature is evident and we, tired of the ideal role models, welcome it. The characters’ weaknesses and strengths are a direct reflection of our own flaws: pusillanimity and faith in God, inflated ego and an attempt to avoid punishment at all costs. But thanks to this exaggerated version of life, we can look at ourselves and draw more insightful conclusions.
Despite the beneficial effects of life lessons no one likes the jobations, and that’s where the humor comes into its own right. Nevertheless, here you will not laugh at funny children (although there is a couple of childish teenagers) but at the silly, violent and cunning deeds. If you like acerbic black humor, watching Fargo will be a pleasure and an opportunity to laugh at charming idiocy. However, while seeing funny and tasteful kills, the ruthless acts do bring inconvenience from time to time.
There’s no place for people with high moral sensitivity among the series characters. “If you don’t stand up to it, let ’em know you’re still an ape deep down where it counts, you’re just gonna get washed away,” – says Malvo to Lester. This rule works throughout the film, and affects Malvo himself, as well as the pregnant wife of the former police chief. One cares about his own life, acts intelligently and carefully but only according to his own rules. Some try to forget about their losses. Lester is drowning until he takes his destiny into his own hands and begins to rule. Another issue is- where is the line, and here almost all the heroes lose by following the advice of “Your problem is you spent your whole life thinking there are rules. There aren’t.” The transformation from dweeb to top dog or from sensitive father to family votary goes unnoticed but clearly kicks in the head after the butterflies hatch. That is one of the reasons behind the following dark and hopeless final – happy end is impossible. The Freeman and Thorton duo, working mostly on opposite sides of the barricades, created a strained thread between each other in which most of other players are tangled. Propensity to manipulation, larks and foxery – nothing human is alien to our heroes. And what joy it is to witness the life of predators hiding among the sheep.
5. Unexpected events
Series, being a bit pointless and dashing, tend to be preachy and teach us about good and evil. Fargo is full of unexpected events, even TO those familiar with the original film. Because in new Fargo we would be even happy to see all protagonists to be wasted but in the most hilarious way. It seems that Coens have found the way to the heart of remakes and are glad to share their discovery. It’s all about familiar atmosphere and themes, new actors that are charismatic per se, and the story which is vaguely related to the original. Despite the fact that the brothers were not seen in the director’s chair, the series is impregnated with their style. And if you want to watch the true story (nice trick at the beginning of each episode) of how the characters have been turned inside out, and see all their innermost fears and cowardice transforming into cruelty, Fargo is the right choice. It will force you to take a look inside yourselves and the world around and admit that each farce has a basis in reality.