The study of literature includes the study of drama, film, and art Essay

            The study of literature includes the study of drama, film, and art.  There are two basic types of drama, tragedy and comedy.  Tragedy describes a serious, solemn play based on an important social, personal, or religious issue.  Comedy describes a play that shows the humorous actions of character when they try to solve social, personal, or religious problems.

  Black comedy (absurd) is used to describe the unusual, sometimes uncomfortable, comedy that portrays the world as unstable.  The action includes improbable events with highly unpredictable characters.  Black comedy is different from other types of comedy in that it tends to end unhappily.  (www.gallaudet.

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edu)            Black comedy in literature, drama, and film, uses morbid humor to express the absurdity, and insensitivity of the modern world.  Ordinary characters or situations are typically exaggerated far beyond the limits of normal satire or irony.  Fargo, written and directed by the Coen brothers, is an example of black or dark comedy and provides an excellent example of literature in film.  Fargo is a black comedy that displays a combination of dry humor, violence, and the use of region specific language.  The Coens frequently take character and genre types familiar to audiences and develop them in unexpected ways.  Fargo’s plot concerns a kidnapping that goes horribly wrong, resulting in the murders of innocent people and disaster for the perpetrators.

            Because of the diversity of its characters, Fargo leads viewers in varied, sometimes contradictory directions.  The viewer is often searching for interpretation.  The opening title states that “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987.At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.

” The closing title directly contradicts this and states that “No similarity to actual persons living or dead is intended or should be inferred.” Although these certainly are contradictory statements, the first one is also part of the strategy to guide the viewer’s response to the film. Regardless of whether the first statement is true, it is certainly no joke. It serves a purpose to set a somber mood that is reinforced by the tone of the opening scenes.  They establishes the mood of a grim buildup to a “true crime” from the recent past. With ominous music on the soundtrack, an isolated car crawls across a frozen landscape. The driver soon meets with two criminals, which sets a series of crimes in motion.

Fact-based or not, the film strives for the feel of actual events with visual accuracy.  (Luhr, 2004)The snowscapes of the Dakotas and Minnesota provide a background illustrating the emptiness that they are trying to depict, defining it as the middle of nowhere.  The background depicts dreary open land, a rural void.  As a black comedy, the tone is somewhat jovial, with a backdrop of frustration and at times, hysteria.  Lighting is use to reinforce this tone.  The images have a blandness that is appropriate to the key characters.

  Viewers are shown repeated high- angle shots of cars in parking lots, as when Jerry tries, with hysterical frustration representative of the trials of his life, to scrape ice from his windshield.  Marge finds the body of a dead trooper alone in a snowfield, the film’s signature still. The frozen wilderness image contains the joke that whatever the police want to protect seems to have long since vanished, since the community itself is nowhere in sight. And there are the numerous back-and-forth trips– Jerry to his home, Carl and Gaear to the Twin Cities, Wade to meet with the kidnappers, Jerry to meet with Wade and Stan, Marge from Brainerd to Minneapolis and back, Jerry to flee Marge, Marge to capture Gaear, and the police capture of Jerry at a motel.

Carl’s burial of the ransom in a roadside snowfield, at a spot he could not possibly locate later (we assume the police never find the money), provides the conclusion for the entire dramatic function of this landscape, “it nullifies much of the action of the film, suggesting that all characters will be buried by a landscape indifferent to their petty lives. Yet Carl’s hopelessly stupid burial of the loot has a weird logic, one place seems as good as another in the void the characters occupy.”  (Luhr, 2004)  The sense of movement and action, of going nowhere and accomplishing nothing is accompanied by attention to the trivial details of middle-class consumer America.  “Fargo’s satire is built on conflict between the apparent plentitude and comfort of bourgeois life and the actuality of its bankruptcy and barrenness.”  (Luhr, 2004)Fargo regularly introduces or reintroduces characters with static close-ups, showing them in mundane tasks, chewing a toothpick, grumbling, or staring off into space.  The Coens’ choice of white as the visual environment for this dark and often ugly film underscores other strategies to develop their material in offbeat ways, “far removed from the stereotypes.

” (Luhr, 2004) A second strategy is evident in their setting of the movie’s grim events not in a decadent-looking city but in an area of Middle America associated more with resolute family values and innocent good cheer than sinister plotting and bloodshed. Third, the Coens use a great deal of humor. This film that opens by declaring itself a respectful recreation of actual events, events that involve horrid family betrayal as well as half a dozen brutal murders, has become widely known for its comedy; in fact, some critics have even classified it as a comedy. Fourth, its central character, a homicide investigator, breaks virtually every stereotype associated with such a role.Ultimately, Fargo’s deviations from widely held stereotypes (of genre, region, gender, and ethnicity) have the cumulative effect of undermining the validity of those stereotypes, as well as the cultural validity of the society that perpetuates them, and that society includes the audience. The whiteness of Fargo’s also evokes its setting in the snowy North Dakota/Minnesota area bordering on Canada, a part of Middle America not typical of mass media.

  Fargo establishes a strong sense of locale.  This is not an area associated with sinister betrayals and violent crime.  Rural Middle America has traditionally been portrayed as more innocent and more bland than places like New York or Los Angeles, as a community of traditional values. The dark events in Fargo, because they appear so out of place, become particularly unsettling. With Fargo the Coen brothers present the particularized dialect of Minnesota, the characters’ phrases are replete with terms such as “yah,” “you betcha,” “you’re darn tootin’,” “heck” and “real good then.” The delivery is a Scandinavian influenced lilt characterized by economic and monosyllabic utterances, noted by protracted vowels and an absence of inflection.Coens’ use of language and visual background make this a reflective, literary piece.

Works CitedLuhr, William G., ed. The Coen Brothers Fargo.  Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Questia. 27 June 2006 ;;d=107353452;.;


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