You know you’ve made it into national consciousness when folks snap photos for Trip Advisor at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitor’s Bureau in front of the wood chipper from the movie Fargo.
This is the second Coen Brothers psycho to make my Top 10, and though Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) isn’t as celebrated as Madman Mundt from Barton Fink, he’s plenty nasty, shooting cops in the face and such. But it’s this scene that reaches into the imagination. Why?
That wood chipper. Great choice for killing! If you live in the country you probably own one. But you never conceived it for a purpose like the Coen Brothers did. What is wrong with these guys?! Think about it…the fiery hallway for Mundt, or Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No Country For Old Men using that bolt pistol, a compressed-air slaughterhouse stun gun as the killing weapon. Who thinks this shit up? Cormac McCarthy wrote the novel, the Coens the movie script.
If you’re writing a psycho flick, I’d suggest–duh!– thinking up something original when it comes time to doing people in. Hey Peditto, great advice! How about a few suggestions? Everything’s been done, you say…
The difference between the Coens and mere mortals is that they fuse original killing weapons with black humor, making for a perfect balance of gore and laughs. Here’s the script scene, compare it with movie clip below:
Marge pulls her prowler over some distance past the cabin.
She gets out, zips up her khaki parka and pulls up its fur-
For a moment, she stands listening to the muffled roar of
the power tool. Then, with one curved arm half pressing
against, half supporting her belly, she takes slow, gingerly
steps down the slope, through the deep snow, through the
trees angling toward the cabin and the source of the
She slogs from tree to tree, letting each one support her
downhill-leaning weight for a moment before slogging to the
The roar grows louder. Marge stands panting by one tree,
her breath vaporizing out of her snorkel hood. She squints
down toward the cabin’s back lot.
Can’t put anything over on Marge! Red plaid quilted jacket, hunting cap with earflaps, she’s got Grimsrud dead to rights…simple descriptive paragraphs, no Tarantino SCREAMING CAPS or rock n’ roll camera directions…the discovery she makes is outrageous enough and the killing in nature, all the way back to Blood Simple, a favorite for the Coen Brothers…
A tall man with his back to us, wearing a red plaid quilted
jacket and a hunting cap with earflaps, is laboring over a
large power tool which his body blocks from view.
The man is forcing downward something which engages the
roaring power tool and makes harsh spluttering noises.
The man is Grimsrud, his nose red and eyes watering from the
cold, hatflaps pulled down over his ears. His breath steams
as he sourly goes about his work, both hands pressing down a
shod foot, as it if were the shaft of a butter churn.
The roar is very loud.
Marge slogs down to the next tree, panting, looking.
Marge’s eyes shift.
A large dark form lies in the snow next to Grimsrud.
Grimsrud works on, eyes watering. With a grunt he bends
down out of frame and then re-enters holding a thick log.
He uses it to force the leg deeper into the machine.
Marge is advancing. She holds a gun extended toward
Grimsrud, who is still turned away.
Grimsrud rubs his nose with the back of his hand.
Marge closes in, grimacing.
Grimsrud’s back strains as he puts his weight into the log
that pushes down into the machine.
The dark shape in the snow next to his side is the rest of
Carl Showalter’s body.
Marge has drawn to within twenty yards. When she bellows it
sounds hollow and distant, her voice all but eaten up by the
roar of the power tool.
Stop! Police! Turn around and
Startled, Grimsrud scowls. He turns to face her.
Marge bellows again:
… Hands up!
Conscious of the noise, she shows with a twist of her
shoulder the armpatch insignia.
With a quick twist, he reaches back for the log, hurls it at
Marge and then starts running away.
Marge twists her body sideways, shielding herself.
No need – the heavy log travels perhaps ten yards and lands
in the snow several feet short of her.
Grimsrud pants up the hill – slow going through the deep
She fires in the air.
She lowers the gun and carefully sighs.
Grimsrud still slogs up the hill – a miss.
Marge sights again.
She fires again.
Grimsrud pitches forward. He mutters in Swedish as he
reaches down to clutch at his wounded leg.
Marge walks toward him, gun trained on him as her other hand
reaches under her parka and gropes around her waist.
It comes out with a pair of handcuffs, which she opens with
a snap of the wrist.
… All right, buddy. On your
belly and your hands clasped
Marge drives. Grimsrud sits in the back seat, hands cuffed
For a long moment there, he is quiet – only engine hum and
the periodic clomp of wheels on pavement seams – as Marge
grimly shakes her head.
… So that was Mrs. Lundegaard
She glances up in the rear-view mirror.
Grimsrud, cheeks sunk, eyes hollow, looks sourly out at the
Marge shakes her head.
… I guess that was your
accomplice in the wood chipper.
Grimsrud’s head bobs with bumps on the road; otherwise he is
motionless, reactionless, scowling and gazing out.
… And those three people in
Marge, gazing forward, seems to be talking to herself.
… And for what? For a little
bit of money.
We hear distant sirens.
… There’s more to life than money,
She glances up in the rear-view mirror.
… Don’t you know that?… And
here ya are, and it’s a beautiful
Grimsrud’s hollow eyes stare out.
The sirens are getting louder. Marge pulls over.
She leans forward to the dash to give two short signalling
WHOOPS on her siren.
She turns on her flashers.
She leans back with a creak and jangle of utilities.
She stares forward, shakes her head. We hear the dull click
of her flashers.
… I just don’t unnerstand it.
Outside it is snowing. The sky, the earth, the road – all
A squad car, gumballs spinning, punches through the white.
It approaches in slow motion.
An ambulance punches through after it.
Another squad car.
All hail Marge! And those Coen Brothers…is there anyone better?