Business and Pleasure

27Apr08

An ominous-looking man donned in all black and sporting a “mop-head” hair-cut climbs out of a police car and approaches the driver of the white car he stopped, carrying what looks like “an oxygen tank for emphysema” in one hand and an attached hose in the other. “Step out of the car, please, sir,” he asks the confused driver calmly in a thick Spanish accent. “What is that for?” the driver inquires after obeying the man’s order and noticing the nozzle on the end of the hose. “Would you hold still, please?” the other asks kindly, flashing him an unsettling and shallow smile. The driver simply stands dumbfounded as the assassin, Anton Chigurh, slowly presses the end of the nozzle to his forehead and squeezes the lever. A rod quickly shoots out and draws back in again, unseen, and the driver falls to the ground, bleeding from what falsely appears to be a gunshot wound to the head (No Country for Old Men).

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem)

“We find the defendant … not guilty.” The courtroom explodes in anger, for while everyone there knows that the defendant, Dr. Ruldoph Klemper, is indeed guilty, “the wheels of Justice turn slowly in Gotham”; in fact, justice tends not to even be served due to the cancerous presence of corruption in the city. District Attorney Harvey Dent-having failed to outwit Klemper’s lawyer and prove that the doctor was guilty-rushes to take shelter in the judge’s chambers, for the observers of the court are out for his blood in their outrage as much as they are the killer’s. In the chaos, Dent finds himself in the room with Klemper. “There’s something inside you, Harvey,” Klemper tells him after revealing, at Harvey’s request, how he was able to “disassociate” himself from his homicides and prevent himself from “slipping up” under the heat of testimony and even the pressure of a lie detector. “Something that can’t reconcile itself with the person that you want to be. Let it go. Give it free reign. But only at the proper time, and in the proper place.” Seeing that Harvey is speechless, Klemper adds, “All you need to remember is one simple rule. Never mix business … with pleasure” (“The Eye of the Beholder” 12-14, 17-19). Early the next morning, Klemper’s phone rings while he’s still sleeping. Groggily, he answers it. “I’ve taken your advice,” the voice on the other end states blankly. “Dent? Is that you? Speak to me-” Klemper, however, is unable to finish his demand, for something explodes near his window, killing him (21).

Anton Chigurh from the film No Country for Old Men and Harvey Dent from the Batman comic series are two surprisingly similar characters in many respects. Not only do both characters rely on the flip of a coin as a means of decision-making, but Anton and Harvey suffer from mental problems that feed how they are defined in their fictional contexts. What is more, the two characters have interesting hairstyles which are physical extensions of their insanity and contribute much to the way the audience is meant to perceive them.

No Country for Old Men won the Oscar last year for Best Picture, and Javier Bardem-the actor who portrays Anton Chigurh-won for Best Supporting Actor in the movie. In the film, the protagonist Llewelyn Moss is hunted by the assassin Chigurh, who was hired to retrieve the drug money Llewelyn found and stole. Leaving practically no survivors, Chigurh uses an “air gun” which is attached to a tank of compressed air by a hose to break locks and slaughter his victims, which only build in number as the movie progresses. While Llewelyn is resourceful, he is no match for Chigurh, and by the end of No Country Anton manages to track him down and kill him. Still, Llewelyn survives a long time on the run, refusing help from anyone else because of his pride. Carson Wells, the only character familiar with Chigurh’s ways, admits, “You’ve seen him … and you’re not dead. Huh” (NCOM). Although the movie does not have a happy ending-for in addition to Llewelyn’s death, Anton escapes-this is done intentionally as support for the film’s message, which comments on the transition that was occurring between a more respectful, safer time when ideals and manners could be relied on and a newer age complete with mass murderers and diminishing morals. Chigurh is awkwardly placed somewhere in between, however, which only strengthens his eeriness as a character.

The movie itself is slow-paced, taking its time to unravel, but its pace only heightens Chigurh’s frightening, overwhelming being. Javier Bardem’s character is always one step ahead and rarely seen; rather, you only see him if he wants you to, though you can certainly “feel” his lingering presence in the dark, which leaves the viewer in a state of high anxiety and anticipation. His movements are strange and intimidating, as well. Chigurh is haunting, both as a character and how the camera depicts his scenes, and his hair reflects that-a disturbing hair-cut for an equally bizarre man. Anton Chigurh’s hair is fashioned in a “mop top” or a “mop-head” style. His dark brown hair is almost resembles a doll’s short hair, as it curls slightly under and is framed close to the face like a bob-cut. The hair covers his ears at the side, and is shorter in the front than it is in the back, forming a light angle. More precisely, his hair starts at about his cheekbone and extends to his shirt collar. It is parted to the right, giving him sideways bangs.

Bardem’s character also presents the image of a man who is so terrifyingly good at what he does and is so at the core of his dark nature that he can both appear to take his sweet time and yet always be omniscient and in control. For example, in the scene previously described, the unsettling nature of Anton’s demeanor put the driver not in a position of fear, but tranquil confusion and submission. Anton was literally dominating and entrancing enough to allow someone to stand motionless while he murdered him. In one scene, Carson Wells bluntly but accurately calls him a “psychopathic killer” (NCOM). In fact, Chigurh may very well suffer from psychopathy, for he shares many characteristics of the personality disorder: superficial charm and high intelligence, an absence of general emotional response, a lack of remorse, impulsivity, irresponsibility, a reckless disregard for the safety of himself and others, and a failure to conform to social norms concerning laws and behavior, to name a few (Ogloff 520-21). In regard to the latter, Anton’s social deviance is demonstrated through his hair. His hairstyle is unconventional, especially for a male, and therefore adds to his uncouth charisma and odd conduct. Anton is extremely impulsive, trusting his instincts when tracking down Moss; indeed, his impulsivity seems to guide his behavior, and he does things that are advantageous to him at a particular moment without hesitation. He is not afraid to do what he must, and Anton kills quickly, without mercy or a second thought. In addition, his cold demeanor is maintained even in dire circumstances. For example, when Llewelyn manages to shoot him in the thigh, Anton stoically and professionally removes the bullet and treats his injury in a hotel room, barely expressing pain except for a few groans and grimaces. There is one scene in which Anton murders three men and his only reaction is to take off his socks, as if washing his hands of it and purging himself of sin. What is more, near the end of the film Chigurh is hit by a car from the side while driving. Limping, he sits down on the side of the road and is approached by two young, teenage boys, one of which points out the gruesome bone sticking out of his forearm. “I’ll be all right, let me just sit here a minute,” Anton mutters absentmindedly, and making a sling with the boy’s shirt, he flees the scene as quickly as possible to avoid the police (NCOM).

Moreover, psychopaths tend to rationalize their behavior (Ogloff 521). A couple times throughout the course of the movie, Anton flips a coin to decide the fates of people whose deaths are not “necessary” to his mission. In what is arguably the best and most chilling scene of the film, Anton has an intriguing conversation with a slow-minded and rather perplexed shopkeeper in which Anton nitpicks at almost everything he says. Their discussion commences after the shopkeeper asks Anton a question that anyone else would consider harmless small talk: “Y’all gettin’ any rain up your way?” Pausing, Anton suspiciously replies, “What way would that be?” “Well, I seen you was from Dallas,” the shopkeeper notes inattentively. “What business is it of yours where I’m from … friend-o?” Anton snaps. Throughout the rest of the conversation, Anton exhibits the psychopathic quality of having a low frustration tolerance, and he is easily agitated by the shopkeeper’s simplemindedness and what he considers blatant stupidity. Soon after, Anton takes out a coin and asks the confused man to “call it”: “You need to call it. I can’t call it for you. It wouldn’t be fair.” When the shopkeeper wants to know what they are flipping for, he responds, “You stand to win everything. Call it.” The man wins the coin toss by choosing heads, and giving him the quarter, Anton leaves the store (NCOM). Based on his agitation at the shopkeeper’s interest in his presence there-signifying that the man would probably remember him if questioned-Anton was suggesting that the shopkeeper was flipping for his whether he would live or die when he told him “everything”; since the store manager’s death would be excessive, Anton offered up a coin toss so that, if the man lost, he could justify his reasoning. In other words, by putting the decision on the coin, he forfeits any control over the man’s fate and is, in his mind, relieved of the guilt associated with the act.

Indeed, in the scene when he is hit by a car, Anton pays the teenage boy for his shirt despite his insistence that that was “a lot of money.” Not only does Anton use a coin to purge himself of guilt in order to continue with his murderous ways, but he also turns to money for the same effect. This explains why when Anton visits Llewelyn’s widow, Carla Jean, with the intention of killing her, he quickly becomes angry at her resistance. “You got no cause to hurt me,” she states. “No,” he agrees, “but I gave my word.” He explains, “Your husband had the opportunity to save you. Instead he used it to try to save himself.” Considering, Carla Jean defiantly shakes her head, “Not like that. Not like you say.” They continue to talk, and after a moment Anton relents, and with a sigh flips a coin. “Okay. This is the best I can do. Call it,” he coaxes gently. When she refuses, Anton’s expression becomes one of silent fury. “Call it,” he commands forcefully. “The coin don’t have no say. It’s just you,” she presses. Annoyed, Anton again rationalizes his decision, saying, “I got here the same way the coin did.” Immediately afterwards, Anton walks out of the house, checking the bottom of his boots on her porch (NCOM).

Psychopaths are, also, callous and cunning; not only is Anton unsympathetic to others, but he manipulates people through conversation to get what he wants (Ogloff 522). His cold demeanor and stiff mannerisms gives the audience the impression that something is indeed not quite right with him simply from the way he presents himself. His doll-like hair-cut communicates the same message, and like his composure, remains basically unchanged throughout the entire movie.

Harvey Dent from the Batman comics is similar to yet different from Anton Chigurh in numerous ways, for they both suffer from a mental disorder, rely on coin tosses to justify their actions and suppress guilt, and their maddened personalities are exemplified through their hair. Batman Annual #14, “The Eye of the Beholder,” covers Dent’s origin story, following his mental breakdown and transformation into the infamous villain, “Two-Face.” It is important to first note Harvey’s ailment: dissociative identity disorder (DID) or split personality disorder. DID is a personality disorder in which the sufferer manifests two or more distinct and independent personalities and often develops due to the process of dissociation, a logical defensive response to culminating extreme abuse or neglect in childhood that involves the separation or suppression of particularly harmful memories (Cohen 217, 220). In Harvey’s case, his father was a gambler and an alcoholic who physically abused him, as recounted by his wife Gilda, “every night” (“The Eye of the Beholder” 47-48). When Harvey was a child, his father would play a game with him every night in which he flipped a coin: Harvey would win if the coin was tails, but lose if it was heads (22). Although Harvey did not know it when he was young, the coin had heads on both sides, so he would inevitably lose. His father would tell him after he lost that he was a “bad boy” and beat him. Consequently, Harvey associated the coin toss with good and evil as well as trauma (2, 31). When his father revealed the trick to Harvey after he visited him in an endeavor to “make peace” and salvage their strained relationship, Harvey concludes that he never actually had a choice between being good and evil-in other words, between succumbing to his darker side or overcoming it and leading a moral life (48).

Furthermore, when Maroni splashes Harvey’s face with the nitric acid he had been able to smuggle into the court room in a bottle labeled “antacid”-thanks to the help of Harvey’s corrupt co-worker, Adrian Fields-the left side of his face and neck becomes horrendously disfigured (“The Eye” 37, 41). Unable to cope with these revelations, Harvey decides to allow the side of him he’s tried his whole life to conceal shine through, instead. “All my life, I kept down the bad. The bad stayed inside me, small and ugly … but hidden. All my life … hidden. No more. Now I can’t hide it. Now I’m marked. Like a card. Or a coin” (39). The bad side of him, the side that is tempted to do ill-will, can no longer be suppressed. Klemper told him the trick was to never mix business with pleasure-or for Harvey, good with evil: “Business. The wife. The job. The house. The city. Business. Pleasure. Kill the wife. Quit the job. Burn the house. Destroy the city. Pleasure” (40). For Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men, business and pleasure are also relevant terms, albeit in different ways. With Anton, it is not clear whether business (being an assassin) is pleasure for him, for his stoic disposition makes it hard to discern. At any rate, it is safe to presume that Anton follows the same advice Klemper gave Harvey, for in order to do his job he must stay indifferent and distance himself from the people he murders. He accomplishes that, for instance, through money and coin tosses.

Moreover, Harvey’s disfiguration is a physical manifestation of the madness that had been ever-growing inside of him as a result of his childhood abuse and the pressure he was experiencing from the press and the mayor regarding his political campaign (26). The scars only cement the reality that he is beyond saving; the trauma he had previously stifled has forced its way back to the surface, now too overwhelming for Harvey to manage. The cover of Batman Annual #14, which features Dent flipping his silver dollar, perfectly exemplifies his descent into insanity. The right side of his face, which remains unscathed, shows a handsome politician, while the left side is horribly mutilated. His skin is burned and discolored, his mouth is widened in a sneer, his teeth are yellowed and somewhat sharper, his eye is monstrous, and the pupil is inhuman; most importantly, his hair is in disarray (“The Eye”). In fact, disordered and wild hair is often associated with insanity. Like with Anton Chigurh’s bizarre hair-cut, Harvey’s left side signals that there is something “unbalanced,” as Batman put it, about him (30). Right before Maroni attacks Harvey, Bruce Wayne (aka Batman)-wearing a disguise to blend in with the other observers-muses as he watches Harvey call Maroni to the stand, “The man is on the edge … ready to fall” (36). Earlier in the comic, Captain Jim Gordon, an ally to Batman and a friend of Dent’s, wonders, “What keeps any of us from reaching the breaking point?” Thinking, he answers, “For me, it’s knowing that there’s more to life than crime and punishment … There’s responsibility … and love … and family. That’s enough to keep my perspective … keep me from going over the edge” (16). Gordon’s consideration of what pushes a man over the edge and into the depths insanity is meant to be a contrast against Harvey, who fails to keep his perspective and falls prey to his other personality. In addition, Harvey mentions, “The law is my life. It keeps my whole. Maybe even keeps me sane” (26). Nevertheless, his world is crumbling around him, and his resentment for the injustice that is happening repeatedly because of Gotham’s corruption and wealth of criminal activity is only aggravating his condition. Ironically, it is only because Harvey commits himself doubly to his work, becoming even more obsessed and exhausted after siding with Batman, that Maroni desires revenge against him-which, consequently, causes Harvey to ultimately crack. “I don’t know what to say,” Adrian Fields admits to Maroni helplessly. “I did my best-but Dent’s case against you is airtight.” When Maroni forgives him and says he will just “blow that Dent away right in court,” Fields reminds him that he will not be able to sneak a gun past the court’s metal detectors. “Something else, then,” Maroni tells him, contemplating. “Something that’ll leave an impression” (34).

After Dent chooses to give into the nature of his split personality, he thereon refers to himself as “we”; also, he decides everything with a coin flip, from whether or not he agrees that it is a nice day outside to if he wants to go inside (“The Eye” 42-43). His reliance on the two-headed coin, however, is ironic. By flipping a coin, Dent has no power over the outcome and thus absolves himself of guilt and responsibility, much like Anton Chigurh’s process of rationalization in No Country for Old Men. Like Harvey’s face, one side of the silver dollar his father gave him was burned by the nitric acid, but because the coin has a good and bad side-which is equally symbolic of Harvey-unlike his father’s original version of the coin, he can do both good and bad. According to his father, though, he was always bad. Still, Harvey has no power over which side of him, good or evil, is revealed. When Harvey misplaces the coin after shooting Fields instead of Batman near the end of the comic, he panics, knowing he must leave quickly, as the police are arriving on the scene; realizing that his father has more two-headed silver dollars, Harvey relaxes and says it can be replaced later (46). To explain, Harvey is so dependent on the two-headed coin because he has become consumed with the trauma he experienced as a child. In addition, since he is so torn between the good and evil within him-and having fallen into despair as a result of discovering that he never had a choice between the two when he played his father’s game as a child-he is unable to decide anything for himself. He can withstand no more stress in his state of peaked insanity and turmoil, and to lose the coin permanently would only accentuate his confusion and anguish, for he is no longer certain which side of him is the true Harvey Dent. In many ways, Harvey is indeed marked like a coin (39). He refers to the “bad heads” side of the coin as “the scarred side.” While part of the good Harvey remains, he is scarred mentally and now physically. Like how he describes the rigged game, “there were always two faces” to Harvey Dent; the difference was that when he still had hope in justice he was able to keep his duality in check (51).

For a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder, every additional personality is different in voice, speech patterns, and movement characteristics, literally changing him into a different person whenever one surfaces. Both personalities can take control of the person’s behavior, and they may even refer to themselves by different names. Moreover, each identity has a distinct perspective on relationships and life in general (Cohen 221-23). While “good” Harvey focuses on his definition of business, “bad” Harvey chooses things he associates with pleasure, or the temptation to commit evil acts. Indeed, each personality is necessary for certain situations, and often these identities are in conflict, which is why Harvey continues to experience such powerful inner anguish (223). Interestingly, different personalities have been known to alter their appearances accordingly (218). As Two-Face, Harvey’s split looks do not stop at the neck. Instead, his entire outfit differs on each side. On the right, he still seems like the old Harvey Dent, District Attorney of Gotham; his suit, tie, and even his shoes, however, resemble something the eccentric and flamboyant villain, the Joker, would wear (“The Eye” 1). In addition, the insane Joker’s hair is wild, as well, and not to mention a bright and sickly shade of green.

Harvey’s hair changes multiple times throughout his origin comic, which only heightens and draws the reader’s attention to the dramatic change he endures as a character. The story’s epilogue shows Harvey receiving treatment for his disorder in a mental hospital, where he recently underwent an experimental form of reconstructive plastic surgery. According to his doctor, since the physical scars are healed and can no longer serve as a reminder of his trauma, once Harvey becomes accustomed to his old face again-a symbol of a time when he had his illness under control-the mental scars can begin to heal, as well. In his room in the asylum, a physically-sound Harvey, whose hair is again well-groomed, is seen immersing himself in law books, which he had previously said helps him maintain his sanity. Seemingly recovering, Harvey expresses optimism and excitement for the future; suddenly, he hears someone call his name. At first thinking it was simply that he caught his reflection in the mirror out of the corner of his eye, he soon becomes cognizant that his other personality has reemerged. “Let me out,” it demands. Despite Harvey’s attempts to resist his other personality, he is not strong enough, and he peels off his newly reconstructed skin, undoing the work on the left side of his face and neck. He resumes his physical and mental identity as Two-Face, and once again his hair on the left side of his head is distressed (“The Eye” 53-55).

In conclusion, when Harvey Dent could hide his madness, his hair was tended to and attractive. Nonetheless, by the end of the story half of him is chaotic, including his hair, symbolizing the dominance of his two personalities and the triumph of his mental illness, dissociative identity disorder. On the other hand, unlike Dent, who prominently expresses his emotional turmoil, Anton Chigurh of the film No Country for Old Men-who suffers from a personality disorder called psychopathy-is aloof and strange, barely revealing any emotion whatsoever. Therefore, it is fitting that his hair hardly ever moves throughout the movie and instead remains stiff, much like his cold demeanor. Still, both characters suffer from mental illnesses and rely on coin tosses in order to make decisions and as a means of justification for their misdeeds; in other words, a way to convince themselves they are absolved of any blame or guilt. “We made our choice,” Dent says. “No choice” (40). In addition, each character’s hair is a physical representation of his insanity, and as a result of its unique style our attention is drawn to it. This method allows our perception of the characters to be manipulated in certain ways, guiding us to a better understanding of the characters themselves, who are arguably more fascinating because of their hair.

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Works Cited

Cohen, Avraham. “Dissociative Identity Disorder: Perspectives and Alternatives.” Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry 6 (2004): 217-230. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Owen Lib., UPJ, PA. 15 Apr. 2008 <http://search.epnet.com&gt;.

Helfer, Andrew. “The Eye of the Beholder.” Batman Annual #14 Mar. 1990: 1-55.

No Country for Old Men. Dir. Ethan and Joel Coen. Perf. Javier Bardem, Rodger Boyce, Josh Brolin, Barry Corbin, and Beth Grant. Miramax, 2007.

Ogloff, James R.P. “Psychopathy/Antisocial Personality Disorder Conundrum.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 40 (2006): 519-528. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Owen Lib., UPJ, PA. 13 Apr. 2008 <http://search.epnet.com&gt;.

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3 Responses to “Business and Pleasure”

  1. Great article! I enjoy reading it! I think Javier Bardem’s character in No country for old men is one of his best interpretations. I like the movie because of his character, and although I´m Spanish, I don´t like Javier so much.

  2. Thanks! I liked his portrayal, but I’ve only seen him in NCOM, though.

    Hm, sometimes that’s the way it goes. Actors can be assholes in real life, but sometimes you have to admit they’re really good at their jobs. Or the other way around, of course.

  3. 3 barbara farrow

    the in depth analysis of the character of chiqurh that youve written is spooky and acurate im facing the fanfiction challange of taking the character not changing it but adding one or two other possable traits…women will do that to ya i quess chigurh does give moss’s wife the coin toss in the end (notice book and film have different endings)
    B A Farrow
    author Sugar,Sugar..(no country for old men fanfiction)


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