[NOTE: This entry has been updated (1) as of 10:19 AM Eastern on 4 May. See below.]
We yesterday viewed for the first time in a decade or so the Coen brothers' film Fargo and the viewing served to confirm for us our previous assessment of the film as one of the most perfectly realized films ever made save for a single, egregious, and inexplicable error of judgment; an error that would require but a single, simple edit to set right. And the inexplicable error? The out-of-order placement of one of the film's final four scenes. As released, the film's final four scenes (described below in sharply truncated form) are: Final Scene 1: It's snowing. Marge discovers the killers' car in front of a cabin. She finds Grimsrud stuffing his buddy-in-crime into a wood chipper, announces her presence, and shoots Grimsrud in the leg as he tries to escape. He falls to the snow-covered ground. Marge, gun in hand and pointed at him, carefully approaches him. CUT TO... Final Scene 2: Camera moves fairly slowly down an empty, snow-covered road along which, we discover after a bit, Marge is driving her police cruiser (called a "prowler" in the film). It's still snowing. Then the interior of the prowler, Marge at the wheel. Grimsrud sits in the rear seat which is separated from the front seat by a wire screen, hands cuffed behind him. Behind Marge's prowler another prowler, gumballs spinning, punches through the white of the falling snow. It approaches in slow motion. An ambulance punches through after it. Then another prowler. Marge hears their distant sirens, brings her prowler to a halt and sets its gumballs spinning to await them. FADE OUT. FADE IN ON... Final Scene 3: A shabby motel next to a highway on a snowy, windswept plain. The terrified Lundegaard is discovered in the motel by two cops who've been alerted he's on the run and who capture and cuff him while he screams in terror and frustration. CUT TO... Final Scene 4: Marge and Norm's bedroom. Both are in bed. Norm tells Marge his design won the competition for the three-cent stamp. Marge tells him how proud she is of him. Norm reaches over to rest a hand on Marge's pregnant belly. "Two more months," says Norm. Marge absently rests her hand on top of his. "Two more months," she says. FADE OUT. FINIS. And the out-of-order scene? The above Final Scene 3 of course. It should have been Final Scene 2 and the above Final Scene 2 should have been Final Scene 3. This is no minor clumsy misstep. It not only jarringly defeats what should be, both logically and dramatically, a seamless transition from Marge's police prowler and the approaching ambulance and other police prowlers to Marge and Norm's bedroom but, worse, much worse, virtually shatters the film's until-then pitch-perfect-ness and prior unbroken perfection of realization at which one cannot help but feel cheated, even robbed, by the filmmakers.* Perhaps one day the Coen brothers will come to see the matter as we do and correct the error with the simple edit that would be all that would be required to set things right. Uh-huh. Not in this life. * Just between us chickens, we would have ended the film with the transposed Final Scene 3 (what shows above as Final Scene 2) and done away with Final Scene 4 altogether. That transposed Finale Scene 3 is hugely powerful visually, partly because it evocatively echoes the film's opening sequence, and powerful dramatically because Marge's last words in that scene, thoroughly banal as the writers intended them to be ("And [all that killing]. For what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than money, you know. Don't you know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't unnerstand it.") — words addressed as much to herself as to Grimsrud in the rear seat who, blank-faced, unhearing and unmoved, is paying no attention whatsoever — neatly sum up her entire wonderfully implausible character (played to absolute perfection by Frances McDormand) and her equally wonderfully implausible outlook on life and the world.
Update (10:19 AM Eastern on 4 May): Following is the opening sequence of Fargo (best viewed full screen and in 720p HD resolution) with its strangely haunting music by Carter Burwell based on an old Norwegian folk melody. This opening theme is also used over the closing credits and the harmonic skeleton of which is used often throughout the film. Like everything else about the film (the single exception being the subject of this S&F entry), we can't imagine music more perfect.