Monday, February 23, 2004
© Copyright 2014
Clayton News Daily
Has this cold and sluggish winter season got you down? Tired of scraping the frost from the windshield every morning before going to work? Might I suggest three winter weather DVDs to help you get through these hard times and make you realize things could be worse. A whole lot worse.
Harsh and snowy weather is a great backdrop for a cold drama with the iciest of characters. That's why Fargo is one of my favorites. Many of the film's sequences take place in the barren landscapes of Minnesota and North Dakota. Many of the camera setups are shot with a wide angle to accentuate the characters wandering through ghostly white, wide open spaces, as if lost. One scene in particular traces William H. Macey's character Jerry Lundaguard through a snow covered parking lot to his lonesome car. If you think you have it bad in the mornings, just watch Macey as he has a frighteningly realistic temper tantrum while trying to scrape a thick sheet of ice from his windshield. This scene may be visual proof that the cold drives people crazy. In "Fargo," the cold becomes a supporting character. The brutal forces of nature in Minnesota push the characters' buttons and even help to reveal who they are. For example, notice that Frances McDormand's character Marge wears a lighter jacket than that of Macey's Lundaguard. Marge is the tough, no nonsense heroine of the film whereas Jerry is a cowardly criminal who tries to hide his worthlessness. The winter coats become symbolic of the characters' true nature.
Next on the list of not so warm and fuzzy films is Sam Rami's "A Simple Plan." Like Fargo this film focuses on money as the root of all evil and of course takes place in a sleepy northern town where the ice and snow are plentiful. After happening upon a crashed plan loaded with millions of dollars the characters become fixated on how they could change their lives with the prize treasure. But alas the love of green turns to greed for the green and the characters ultimately never make it over the icy roads out of town. Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as the tormented Jacob, whose dreams of restarting his father's farm remain shattered in the film's bleak parting shot.
Finally, for those of you who eat your oatmeal with razor blades for breakfast, Paul Schrader's "Affliction" is the ultimate in downtrodden winter weather storytelling. The film's cast of characters are meaner than a blizzard. These people are so hardened by the weather they have frostbitten souls. In one early scene the cold even kills a old woman in her sleep whose husband was too cheap to keep the house properly heated. Nick Nolte and James Coburn face off as alcoholic father and son like sharp icicles pointed at one another's throats. The best scene comes toward the end of the film when Coburn congratulates his son (Nolte) for finally opening the flood gates on his repressed rage. No one loses their cool on film like not-so-saintly Nick, a great actor who may do little acting to get in touch with his character's private demons.
In all these films the weather acts as an oppressive force, sometimes complementing the characters' stormy mood swings and callous actions. So if you're feeling down about the weather, visit these film landscapes where the sun shines on not one soul. By the time you finish this sad marathon of films the sun may be shinning once again.
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.