I can feel Fargo creeping up on me again. I’ve watched it four times already, but it’s months since my last visit and I think I’m going there again!
I have a habit of reading a few pages about monasticism and sanctuary, every night, before I sleep. Last night I read this, dealing with the thorny question of humility: ‘a sense of humour is essential if life is to be taken seriously, but the humour must be directed at our own folly not at life itself…. if we can see how serious life is and laugh at our own foolishness, then we will have made a start (towards) humility’ . And that’s when I thought “I must watch Fargo again!”
Remember when you had to complete a sum at school and to show the workings? This blog is going to show my workings. It’s going to work out why those words made me think of this crime series, why Fargo is watchable over and over again and why I admire this series so much, more than the original film, more than ‘Das Boot’ and ‘West Wing’, even more than (hush, dare to whisper it) ‘The Sopranos’. Just more.
When I talk about Fargo, I’m talking about series one only. Have you seen it? If not, why not? It’s biblical. It is, flip me, listen, BIBLICAL. Capital letters and italics, and I’m tempted to make it bold…. but that might be over-egging the pudding. (a little segue; when I offered my granddaughter an omelette she replied “Sounds nice, Nana, but it might be a bit eggy”)
Fargo is about the smallness of man’s mind, the pettiness of his appreciation, the venality of his ambition, the narrowness of his vision, his self obsession, his relentless greed and his paucity of joy. Grim, eh? It’s also about simple, gentle love, commitment, compassion and loyalty. And, hell, it’s funny. Maybe the humour is understated and quietly absurd rather than hilarious, but it makes me crow aloud, exclaim with recognition at the metaphor and truth of the fiction. All alone in my little house, I hoot with derision and delight, loud enough to wake the dogs and make them look up, alarmed.
Imagine the scene: a snow covered nightscape, devoid of features, a road snaking towards us, the sky dark above. And then, two tiny pinpoints of light, a car on the horizon, drawing nearer, drawing us into a gripping story of greed and murder, deceit and conspiracy. The camera takes us into the cab of that car, to the driver, eyes glued on the road…. a man in silent turmoil…. his mind full of the next step he must take, the next lie he must tell, the people he must deceive, the profit he can make, the sins he must cloak…. in his wake are ruined lives, frightened people, dead bodies, tortured souls… but he drives on, intent on this moment….. on the road ahead…. spinning a world of his own making… while all around him nature is wild and empty and ready to swallow him up. He’s a speck of dust on the world’s surface but in the protection of that cab, under that wonderful sky, in all that beauty, he lives the illusion that he is in control, master of his fate, that the future can be skewed his way, the past can be re-written. How absurd he is. And in the shadows of this man’s story is a stronger, calmer, implacable presence of evil. Another man, but this one without conscience. No need for lies in his life. Evil feels no shame.
There you have it. The power of evil and the weakness of mankind.
That’s us. That’s humanity. And that, my chums, is why I love Fargo! A small life, a sympathetic everyman, not any more cruel than you or me, and a series of events, each one worse than the last, each one hidden, demanding lie after lie and scheme after scheme… but this everyman is up to the job! Always thinking, planning, ready to take the next step, he excuses this small selfish impulse, celebrates this tiny achievement, knows some other small satisfaction, covers up this lie with another lie, and this stab of fear with a new and different plan, and when that plan fails he covers it with another and another, with a flight, with denial, with anger, with victimhood…. with a smile. What a metaphor! You don’t think that mankind is by nature sinful? Read the Bible. Watch Fargo. Watch this man as he hurtles, headlong, into a nightmare of his own making.
In fiction there can be startling clarity and truth. To tell a story well, to be a good writer, there must be – above all – truth.
That’s why I love Fargo. It illustrates the truth so clearly. The characters are so immersed in their own story they have no time for God, no time to ‘stand and stare’, always moving on….. Oh, mates, our lives, without God, are futile. They can be full and action-packed, they can surround us with luxury, but without God it’s all futile. It won’t last. Only God is true.
I read a terrible, terrible news account of two real lives this morning, the lives of multi millionaire global celebrities. Lives of cocaine and alcohol and rage, manic drunkenness, excessive self-harm, fighting, punching, slashing, swearing, betrayal and hatred. Two beautiful people, created by a loving God, but hell bent on self destruction. Two lives with everything this world can offer: fame, wealth, adulation but without God … hell in a handcart.
The absence of God in any life shows the reality of God, the goodness of God, the truth of his Word.
As for God, his way is perfect:
the Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
Life without God is life wasted. Truthful writing will always reveal this. Fargo reveals this. That’s why I love Fargo.