Analysis- Fargo - Coen Brothers

1. What is the plot (what does the character want)?
Jerry Lundegaard wants money.

2. What is the theme (what does the character need)?
He needs to realize that kidnaping his wife for money is not a good way to get money.
In other words: be moral —never put other people's lives in danger for money.

3.Choose a scene that best exemplifies the theme. Identify and explain how 5 elements within the scene (mise-en-scene, editing, sound, cinematography, lighting) create meaning in reference to that theme.

The scene where he walks through the snow to get to his car uses film technique to create meaning in reference to the theme.
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The opening to this scene is a birds eye view that shows Jerry walking towards his car. This shot uses lines "communicate ideas"1. This shows that Jerry is at a "crossroad" and faces a dilemma. The Coen brothers used the film element "Linear" to physical show this idea by including snow tracks that form a crossroad. The Coen Brothers choose to include this to emphasize the fact that Jerry isn't sure about his plan and he has crossed a line with his plan. The snow track symbolizes "the moral line," and the car symbolizes the "crime" he is committing (because the deal was to give the hired people a car and 80,000 dollars).
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When Jerry sits inside the car, there is only light coming from one side. This creates a ominous feeling and suggests the two sides of the ransom. The good side is that Jerry gets the money, but the dark side is that his method is morally wrong. Furthermore, Jerry's face does not direct towards the camera which creates a even more ominous feeling because the audience does not know what he is thinking or feeling at that moment.

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Next Jerry walks out of the car to clean the window. This shot uses sounds to convey the emotion. Jerry starts of scratching the car slowly, and increasingly turns fierce and annoyed (just like the crime). At the beginning, the entire plan was supposed to be a simple ransom to get money, it turned into a cold blooded serial murder incident. This parallels Jerry's emotion in this scene. He was at first just mildly annoyed, but increasingly became fed up and violent. The audiences hear soft background music playing and the scratching sound becoming faster, then followed by Jerry screaming. If this scene was silent it would have been less powerful.

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The movie cuts back to a birds eye view, but this time of Jerry scratching his car instead of walking towards the car. This birds eye view, the second one in this specific scene, suggests something else. The first birds eye view is used to emphasize the decision he made, which was to commit the crime and not confess about it to his father-in-law. This second birds eye view gives the audience the idea that "someone" is watching. This angle is also similar to that of security cameras, which adds on to the "being watched" feeling —this feeling foreshadows them being caught.

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The cut from the previous scene to the next was abrupt. The Coen brothers choose to cut it this way because this cut is much more dramatic. The pervious scene shows Jerry being conflicted and him choosing to stick to the plan; this scene shows the plan actually being executed. This direct cut clearly displays the "cause and effect" of the ransom.

1 Screenplay book.