Literature and Media

Adaptation Novel to Film-No Country for Old Men


Adaptation of No Country for Old Men



         Adaptation has always been a conflicted topic. Without novels I think the film industry would be a reproduced mediocre art form.  Novels keep some semblance of originality in the entertainment world. However, that does not mean filmmakers do not take liberties. Many famous tales have been reduced to mere vanilla versions of themselves in order to satisfy the general populace. I am an avid reader and film buff. My family is involved in the film industry. This involvement has resulted in an unhealthy love of film, but that does not cloud my view on adaptation. When done properly it can be phenomenal. How often does this happen though? I say rarely if ever. I believe No Country for Old Men is adapted fairly well.  I think interpreting someone else’s art and replicating it must be daunting. You have to appease the author, the readers, and the film audience. Having said that I believe the filmmakers gave a decent adaptation of this novel. Of course there are aspects I did not support, such as the filmmakers tendency to focus on the message rather than the development of key characters. It made the film seem shallow in a way. I know that may seem contradictory. The message cannot be strongly expressed without the deep understanding of those involved in the passage of said message. All of us do not have the same opinions on what is important enough to take from a work of art. To me, as a reader/viewer, knowing the characters in the novel made the message that much more gripping. I felt the film barely delved into who these characters were/are. Sure, I could give you a list of examples where the film does not follow the novel, but we all know those instances. The adaptation of characters is the real issue. The viewer misses out on appreciating some of the main characters to their full potential.

         Much of the novel is, in fact, translated verbatim in the film, though key conversations are cut out, as are crucial inner monologues.  Overall, the Coen brothers were as faithful as they could be without losing some artistic interpretation to the novel. I think my real qualm is the character of Ed Tom Bell. I thought the Coen brothers robbed us of the full levity that Bell could provide.  In a way most of the characters are diluted to some extent, but to me the character of Bell is incredibly complex, more so than the film d  elved into. In the novel he is fighting the world, but even more so fighting himself.

It's a odd thing when you come to think about it. The opportunities for abuse are just about everywhere. There's no requirements in the Texas State Constitution for bein a sheriff. Not a one, There is no such thing as a county law. You think about a job where you have pretty much the same authority as God and there is no requirements put upon you and you are charged with perservin nonexistent laws and tell me if that's peculiar or not. Because I say it is. Does it work? Yes. Ninety percent of the time. It takes very little to govern good people. Very Little. And bad people can't be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it. (p. 64)

I was twenty-one when I joined the army and I was the oldest in our class at boot camp. Six months later I was in France shootin people with a rifle. I didn't even think it was all that peculiar at the time. Four year later I was sheriff of this county.I never doubted but what I was supposed to be neither. People anymore you talk about right and wrong they're liable to smile at you. But I never had a lot of doubts about things like that. In my thoughts about things like that. I hope I never do. (p. 158)

       In the film you really do not see him experiencing inner turmoil about himself as much as his issues with the world. It is more of a surface interpretation of a man who obviously has a unique take of the human race and the choices we make. He has a strong sense of duty, but seems matter-of-fact when it comes to describing the actions of others. Most of his stories and narratives from the novel are transformed into conversations with others in the film, loosing a good deal of their luster.



        The characters Moss and Chigurh were depicted as clear-cut, no nonsense men in the film and the novel. Moss could be more complicated according to the novel. He nevertheless does not loose potency as a character in the film, despite loosing much of his journey in translation from novel to film. Moss has not been altered enough for me to fully go into. Chigurh views things as black and white. The silver screen Chigurh is reasonably accurate, but I think the novel gave more color to him. I believe the Coen brothers weighed much of the film on the character of Chigurh. Almost as if Chigurh was the glue that made it all fuse together.The scenes with Chigurh were the most powerful, at least to me as the viewer. I have to deduce that the filmmakers were hoping for that. I think fate and death were key attributes in the film, with the theme that life is about choices and you cannot turn back from those choices. Chigurh wants to put the fate of his victims in the hands of a coin toss throughout the film (and novel), almost as if he does not want to feel the responsibility of their demise. As you can clearly see below this novel to screen moment is wonderfully accurate. It can be assumed that Chigurh does not possess a conscience. He is tormenting this man who was simply trying to be friendly. Chirgurh puts all responsibilty in a coin toss, trying to teach this man something about fate.


Chirgurh: Yes you did. You've been putting it up your whole life, just didn't know it. You know what date it on this coin?




Chirgurh: 1958, its been traveling 22 years to get here, and now it's here, and it's either heads or tails. You have to decide, call it.


Clerk: Look I need to understand what stand to win.


Chirgurh: Everything.

       I know many see him as black and white, with unwavering resolve. To me it felt like cowardice or avoidance of responsibility. I find him weak, and maybe I am reaching when saying that. He speaks of choices, but acts like he has no choice in what he does. I do not find him admirable in the least. Anton Chigurh is a man who is factual as well, he believes life is all about fate, and if you choose to participate you have a 50/50 shot of making it through. The adaptation of Chigurh in the film provoked this opinion more so than the novel. The film Chigurh was a mild elucidation of the novel Chigurh. The novel is obviously more detailed and does not have as many rules as film.




            I thought the plot, setting, and mood was definitely properly portrayed in the film. The desert scenes, which are so vividly described, do not get that much face time in the film. If you look at the first clip in the essay, it will show one of the few deserts scenes. The desert in the novel is like another character; it holds serious importance to what is happening. The film medium provided the audience with a visual and an audio interpretation to all that they had read. I Thought the casting of the film was on point and the obvious preparation was evident. Film will provide the viewer with the visual and audio, but the novel will provide you with the depth and understanding you are seeking in regard to the novels characters.



        To play devil’s advocate I thought the film brought importance to the theme more clearly than the novel. Film today tends to shy away from in-depth back-stories. Audiences have a propensity to not possess the patience for involved back-stories. I can sit for hours watching a movie, so I will admit my opinion is biased. I find inner musings to be fascinating. To understand thought methods and intentions provides me with the tools to gain a better/deeper understanding of the story. Not to be altogether negative, I find the film to be very well done; after all it was acclaimed and awarded for its excellence.  If I had not read the novel I think the film would have sufficed for me, but knowing the full story makes me a tad fastidious.  Of course I can just as easily be picky about the novel, but the focus is the adaptation. The adaptation in conclusion is captivating, but lacking in real depth.

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