June 17, 2009

Fargo the relationship between love and money

In Fargo, a pregnant police officer hunts down a man who has paid some hitmen to try and kidnap his wife. That is the basic plot- and from that basic plot you could derive should you choose to most of what I am going to write in this article. For Fargo sets off against each other two relationships- one between the policewoman and her husband and the other between the kidnap organiser and his wife. Those two relationships are the central plot devices of the film but they are also important because they sketch out alternative moral universes in all sorts of ways which the film could contrast. Ultimately Fargo is about marriage- and about the way that marriage can become a mask of tradition or a genuine commitment- it is about in a sense the ways that words create relationships of power and relationships of trust.

The film opens with what might seem a traditional scene- a respectable man walks into a bar and orders a drink. Actually what he does is order some hitmen to go and kidnap his wife. Jerry Lundegard, the protagonist, asks the men to do this because he wants them to share the ransom that he presumes his rich father in law will pay with him. He wants the money to be able to set up an investment opportunity in Minnesota. Of course the kidnap goes wrong, the wife is taken but somehow the kidnappers end up committing murder and Jerry's lines of communication to them are sundered. More important though than that is the relationship that this presumes between Jerry and his wife- his consideration for her is secondary to his consideration for the money that he might receive through her ransom. In a sense we are allowed to wonder whether Jerry has always focussed on the millions in his father-in-law's bank account and not his wife.

Oppose that to Marge, the police officer, and her husband. Here the relationship is completely different- with Marge performing the traditional male role of bread winner and her husband being involved in his art. Through thier bedroom scenes you get the impression of mutual support but what is more the idea that money does not full their plans. Here the words of the marriage service are something that a relationship has grown out towards rather than grown backwards from: Marge is perfectly willing to praise her husband's triumph (getting a picture on a stamp) even though it has no pecuniary advantage. Indeed neither partner seems to see the other's triumphs and disasters as a threat because power is not at issue.

In a sense therefore when the film ends with Marge saying to one of the hitmen that she has no idea why he does what he does 'for a little bit of money' she voices the incomprehension that she from her relationship with her husband feels for Jerry. Marge comes across as a shrewd detective but this simple question reveals that though she has put the facts together, she has not understood the depths to which the characters she investigated have sunk/


Anonymous said...

Its not a bad movie either...

James Higham said...

In Fargo, a pregnant police officer hunts down a man who has paid some hitmen to try and kidnap his wife.

Female police officer?