No Cosmos for Old Men: Narratives, Tropes and Archetypes
The mystery and futility of these words rings in the narratives found in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, thematically, this narrative is played out across multiple films, and actually can be found in all three films we have studied in this course. With particular focus on 2001: A Space Odyssey and No Country for Old Men, an analysis of characters and symbolism points to a distinct metanarrative with its own cast of players and their representational archetypes.
Whether it is the cold, dark slab in 2001, or the cold dark psyche of Anton Chigurh, the role of cosmic and mysterious fortune comes to life for the viewer to experience. The stark incongruity of the monolith, as well as the angular fastidiousness of Chigurh’s methodical nature place them within the narrative as symbolic world changers. Personifications and symbolism notwithstanding, each player precipitates a seemingly unescapable fate, and an irresistible unknowability for a would-be protagonist.
Dave, like Llewellyn Moss, finds himself at a crossroads of inevitability, an unwitting subject to an unfolding destiny and who, in the course of merely surviving from moment to moment, finds himself capable of that which was beyond his abilities. In the end, both characters fall, not to an end, but to a mysterious process in which they played a key role in perpetuating.
The narrative driven by the inner voice of the viewer for 2001 is driven by embodied voice of Sherriff Bell in No Country for Old Men. The viewer is situated in each according the intention of the author, in 2001 to be disoriented through change, and in No Country for Old Men as both a voyeur to the events with the point-of-view benefit of traveling alongside Bell in his journey. Questions are asked, presented into the scheme and answered within the subtle folds and layers of elegantly conceived story craft.
Technologies in both films become the tools of disembodiment necessary to bring the concepts to life, allowing the viewer to move through each chapter and accept what is being characterized apart from the deeper meanings weaved into the narrative itself. It may be easier to compartmentalize the wonders and horrors made possible by the technology as an aberration. However, for the viewer there remains a persistent linkage that demands attention.
Each film brings us to the questions that answer themselves, which, in turn generate more questions. From multiple authors a common thread can be found. Perhaps Joseph Cambpell’s theory of the monomyth in literary narratives may be true, that there really is only one real narrative, a framework upon which every tale returns to the same basic questions. The human drive to derive meaning, and to create, connects the viewer with an unalienable truth to which most human creativity is attached and for which no language suffices.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
My additional commentary on 2001…