Saturday, February 23, 2008

can't stop what's coming

Last month, I spent a few weeks ill. Most likely, I had a Strep infection, but being as stubborn as I am and (ironically enough) loathing visits to the doctor's office, I never scored any antibiotics for it. Here's something most doctors won't tell you, and they can dispute what I am about to say because I'm just a peon med student who is still an infant in terms of medical knowledge. But here's what I will tell you- when you take antibiotics for a Strep infection, they're not going to get you better any faster. Believe it or not, your immune system is just as capable as the antibiotics of clearing the infection (unless you're way old or way young or have deficits in your immune system). The problem is that, in fighting off the bacteria, you could wind up mounting antibodies that are duped into attacking your own, much-needed tissues, like those in your heart. That's why you take antibiotics for Strep- so that you don't develop rheumatic fever or worse.

Anyway, my heart is okay, I suppose. But infections make me think of the inevitabilities of life. And I'm convinced that is why I was so taken by No Country for Old Men, even though I saw it before I had started taking Micro. In fact, I saw it in December after a week of finals that had tested my resolve. Needless to say, I did not know much about the film going into it, or I might not have been so amenable to seeing what will never be termed a feel-good favorite.

So, you've got your Javier Bardem, the creepy bug, perfectly played to embody evil. Like a bacteria or a virus, beautiful in its design, in its insinuating manner of wreaking havoc, and of seeming altogether out of this world and alien. And then you've got Tommy Lee Jones playing the host. He's not really been infected with Bardem. Maybe he's not the host, so much as the doctor. A doctor staring down a pandemic, trying in vain to save whoever he can, and grappling with his own fears of coming down with the bug.

Maybe it's nothing like that at all. But No Country for Old Men is about more than a serial killer going on a spree, is about more than the dumbass that is foolish enough to think he can outsmart him. It doesn't have a neat bowed tied around it like Fargo did- there is no real resolution here. Some have found that frustrating. It struck me as so authentic that it was haunting. And Jones' final words in the film, to me, said everything about the more that the movie was about, the more that you only really catch when Jones is on screen. It's shocking to find that after years of dueling with Anthony Hopkins for champion of all scenery-chewers, he calmed himself down into this weary, grave role.

I still can't write about the film properly. It's been over two months now since I have seen it and it's stayed with me. It occurs to me-- before, I'd always advised people not to miss special-effects-laden movies at the theater. But this movie, this quiet, really very indie movie ought to be seen on the big screen, uninterrupted, in the silence and dark of the theater. Maybe that is why it burrowed into me and stays there like a dormant parasite, waiting for its opportune moment to reactivate and hit me again.

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