Joel and Ethan Coen’s sixth film, Fargo was released in the US 20 years ago on 8th March 1996.
Set in snowy Minnesota, 1987, William H. Macy plays the brilliantly pathetic car salesman Jerry Lundergaard who, in an attempt to escape his huge debts, organises the kidnap of his own wife – hoping that her millionaire father will pay a hefty ransom. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is a pregnant Minnesota police chief who must unpiece the series of bloody botchings and murders that ensue by the hands of Jerry’s hired hoods, played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare.
The snowy Minnesota setting; Minneapolis (the Coens grew up in a suburb just outside of which), the state’s more sparse settlements, and the barren landscapes in-between is the perfect backdrop for an indiscriminately cruel world, rendered with a bleak humour when juxtaposed with the ‘Minnesota-nice’ population and the cheerful twang of their accent.
Typically of the Coens’ films, it’s this public, in a range of such flattering shades of humanity as desperation, naivety, stupidity, and helplessness, who are the lightning rod for the world’s brutality – routinely executed for incidences of wrong place/wrong time. Similarly to their most critically acclaimed 2007 film, No Country For Old Men, the lone police chief is faced with these escalating scenes of cold, passionless killing, and must attempt to retain (or in Tommy Lee-Jones’s case in No Country, simply believe in) some moral structure in the world, in the shadow of a decidedly absurdist reality.
Fargo was met with critical acclaim after its release; of its seven nominations at the Academy Awards, the Coens received the Academy Award for best original script, and Frances McDormand won best actress. Joel Coen also won the Director’s Prize at Cannes and Best Director at the BAFTA’s.
An equally brilliant Fox TV show of the same name, inspired by and co-existing in the film’s fictional universes, was first aired in 2014, followed by a second season in 2015.
Remind yourself below of the film and how awful an era the 90’s really were for film trailers.