Bardem on Chigurh: 'Pointless'

This topic contains 11 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 5 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • 07 Dec 2012 at 7:09 am #2615

    (Ding dong, ding dong. Bang bang bang bang bang. Anybody home? Holy buckets! When did y’all re-arrange the danged furniture?!!)

    “He’s not attached to anything, or to any label, or to any classification, to any sexuality,” Javier Bardem says of Skyfall supervillain Raoul Silva. “But at least he does have a point. Chigurh had no point.”

    I don’t agree with him. As I have maintained in the past, Chigurh seems to operate on a metaphorical  plane as some sort of non-transcendentalist roving recon agent for the Fates, a mad piper, with a coin, dedicated to prompting and enforcing a code of conduct for life as a chaotic deadly game of chance. (Even the koinkidinkal intersection in time of his drive-by with nightbird-on-bridge-strut begs action on his part.) On another plane, there is some evidence to suggest that his maneuvering has some worldly goals in the drug bidnith. Regardless, given all the good hard meticulous debate we had in the last forum trying to figure out what Chigurh’s big gig on this planet was, or – to be fair to those who agree with Bardem, and there have been many – if he even had one, I found his observations [which can be found in a small Skyfall review in the December 6, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone (circa 1975 photo of a smokin' - in every way - Jimmy Page on the cover)] to be studious and keen. Heck, he might as well be describing Da Judge instead of Silva with that first line – which should please those fond of comparing Chigurh to Holden, which I always found useful and fun, though not very compelling.

    If someone has already posted this, please pardon the duplicate topic (can’t seem to find my way around in here anymore…) and delete.

    07 Dec 2012 at 8:29 am #2617

    Rick Wallach

    Sorry Mike, you’re stuck with us. No one is deleting you. Not even Dr. Kevorkian.

    The problem with Bardem’s analysis is that it’s specific to the film character. It’s less applicable to the Chigurh of the novel. The Chigurh of the novel functions as Bell’s anti-self, for one thing – a “point,” if you will, that is particular to him as a textual construction. Also, the Chigurh of the novel wants to work for an organization – his “pointlessness” is, in some ways, his independent contractor status, if you will, which seems to weigh on him with an existential angst. What does he do with the money once he has recovered it and killed everyone else who has touched it? He brings it back to the people it belongs to, and requests employment with them.  He’s like a guy who just got out of law school and wants to go to work for a big, successful firm. Happiness is a warm cartel, and all that.

    This is an aspect of Chigurh that hasn’t been explored very much. I’ll be delving into these oddball aspects of the man with the plan a bit in my Berea paper (which will be an expanded version of my ALA keynote speech from back in October in Nawlins).




    07 Dec 2012 at 8:52 am #2618

    Hi Rick!

    The problem with Bardem’s analysis is that it’s specific to the film character.

    Agreed, which only makse sense, since he played him. My comments are not referring to the film, though; I posted here because of the actor connection. (Wrong place?)

    Also, the Chigurh of the novel wants to work for an organization…

    Also agreed. That’s what I meant by ’evidence to suggest that his maneuvering has some worldly goals in the drug bidnith.’

    I look forward to reading that paper some day. Ah, some day.

    (Who’s Mike?)

    07 Dec 2012 at 10:15 am #2619



    We rearranged the furniture (and remodeled the house) back in April.

    Good to see you around. And yes, you posted in the right place, though this topic is one of those that overlaps; you could have posted it in the “Later Novels” forum if you’d wanted to.


    07 Dec 2012 at 11:12 am #2620

    Webmaster: (and remodeled the house)

    And it looks very classy, Marty.

    07 Dec 2012 at 1:50 pm #2621

    Rick Wallach

    Mike was what we professionals call a cerebroflatular episode. I was composing an email to a friend of mine named Mike just before popping up on the forum. Call it a residue of thoughts unthunked, if you must.

    I had to dash before so couldn’t finish my thought – which might be just as well, considering that a completely different thought interceded before I even began thinking it. Anyway, yeah, the resemblance between Chigurh the philosopher and the hired assassin Bill Smoke in Cloud Atlas becomes more fertile the more I think about it. Atlas appeared in 2004, No Country in 2005. However, since the screenplay McCarthy originally wrote for No Country was written well before that, I suspect that we’re dealing here with coincidence, not influence – much like Yeats’ A Vision and Spengler’s Decline of the West, which arrived at the same historical systems at the same time without their authors having any knowledge of each other.

    Existential philosopher-hitmen were just in the air thenabouts, methinks.






    07 Dec 2012 at 5:03 pm #2622

    No problem. Any inside scoop on the new book?

    07 Dec 2012 at 6:41 pm #2623


    Rusty, I saw that piece on Bardem in RS and didn’t agree with him either. And at the risk of violating one of Grice’s Conversational Maxims, that was some cool stuff on Page in the RS piece and I’ve been on a bit of a Zep kick since reading it a few weeks back. Houses of the Holy was the first album I ever bought, the artwork on the cover intriguing me so much I just had to have it so I could look at it as long as I wanted as I’m pretty sure I didn’t know jack about Zeppelin’s music as a 13-year-old in 1974. But I listened to it like crazy, and not simply because it was my only album for awhile. Still like Houses as much as any of their stuff, especially Page’s guitar on Rain Song. Good to see you on the new Forum!

    07 Dec 2012 at 7:29 pm #2624

    Candy Minx

    Hey Rusty I hope you squeezed all the water out of your socks before you walked in here.

    13 Dec 2012 at 8:29 pm #2681


    Rusty: I like what you said about Bardm & Chigurh:

    “I don’t agree with him. As I have maintained in the past, Chigurh seems to operate on a metaphorical  plane as some sort of non-transcendentalist roving recon agent for the Fates, a mad piper, with a coin, dedicated to prompting and enforcing a code of conduct for life as a chaotic deadly game of chance.”

    My comments are mostly relevant to the film, but I also feel like it’s much more interesting to read Anton in a non-transcendent way. Also think it’s powerful if we go a little subconscious though (something McCarthy isn’t afraid to do if you view the Oprah interview) and read Chigurh’s relation to “Fate” as a sort of inevitable return of the violence that modern democracies attempt to repress. As Ellis says “You can’t stop what’s comin” which may be a pretty radical shift in what goes for tenable political systems.

    I think you can read Bell as a defender of the Law who realizes, on some level, that the violence that maintains the Law isn’t any different from the violence (Chigurh) that threatens to destroy it (or that much diff from that of the “good/normal guy” Moss: recall in the film he and Chigurh both tell their prey to “hold still” in back to back scenes, and Moss and Chigurh literally “drink from the same cup”…).

    Anyway, I’m channeling Walter Benjamin & Agamben here, but I think it makes for some interesting reflection on McCarthy’s insight on contemporary social and political reality. I’ve got related ideas about Lester Ballard and The Road, but will avoid that particular self-indulgence.


    28 Oct 2013 at 1:01 pm #4384


    I like this post, and the addressing of the question: it seems very important, and I hadn’t thought about it so much.

    Maybe in addressing this, one can productively start with a quote I attribute to Nietsczhe, (though I honestly can’t recall for absolute certain it was he–I recall I read in in a list of quotes from great philosophers, but not certain past that):

    “A man’s awareness reaches its Zenith when it becomes clear to him that his life is meaningless.”

    “Inside-out,” this can, by choice, be read:

    “A man’s awareness reaches its Zenith when he sees that all he had regarded as essential is meaningless, and he then comes to terms with, as best he can, what has actual relevance.”

    I don’t know why Bardem would say what he said. Give him a break: he’s an actor.

    Studying, a bit, the Master Criminals in McCarthy’s work, insofar as I have, This is what hits me:

    Prior to reaching the age in life where one typically seeks full understanding of and commits to the Social Contract, with its benefits and obligations, these men either were or felt they had been, forever, disenfranchised of those of the said such benefits by experience, by experience of bitter sort which kills soul and allows body to survive, if barely. Still feelingly aware that essential aspects of their humanity remained vital in them, but feeling, too, themselves so distinct from most people, in so many ways, as to feel “a stranger in a strange land,” should they commit to typical social contract, they considered their options. A downside of rejecting the social contract stubbornly, destructively, and long enough is an agonizing, separating, humiliating, consciousness-altering exile from society–what if one suffers this prior to being given a choice? I think that this is Chigur, and the buyer in The Counselor. These are keenly intelligent, thoroughly capable men.

    If Nihilism enjoys a completely distinct philosophical sophistication, in it likely in its capacity to sling-shot proponents to the frontier of the Actually Meaningful.

    Chigur is divorced from structure one would think essential to the pursuit of meaning, and, as wisely and thought-provokingly posted above, he seems to wish some return to such structure, such as may be feasibly possible for him.

    The buyer in The Counselor never had to sacrifice much in the way of benefits derived form social structure. He leads a somewhat double life, but it doesn’t bother him. It looks like he is reconciled to pretty much everything, and ok with all his choices. His name is on the Social Contract, and his hands drip with blood. I feel there is reason to think the human mind capable of even accommodating even far, far, far greater “contradiction.”

    28 Oct 2013 at 2:40 pm #4387

    Richard L.

    Chigurh, of course, was based on the real-life Jamiel Chagra, link, whom McCarthy may have actually encountered through his friend, evangelist and professional gambler, Frank Morton. It was Morton who introduced him to professional gambler, Betty Carey. See this link

    The real life Jamiel Chagra backed Betty Carey in her high stakes poker quest against Amarillo Slim. There is much we don’t know about this stage of Cormac’s life. A memoir might enlighten us.

    The Chigurh of the novel is a child whose sense of empathy and compassion is retarded. He lacks the necessary development in his frontal lobes, but he is smart in his animalistic way, cunning, and still evolving. There is a section where the narrator says he “catches up to himself.” He is the hard man at the opposite pole from Bell, the soft man. Yeats.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by  Richard L..
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