How often do we get to witness a film like “The ballad of buster scruggs (2018)” that has your mind in constant operation for almost the entire duration of the film? It’s quite a rare & phenomenal sign when such a film takes its form. The film deals with a lot of complex human emotions, behaviour, tragedy, comedy & what not! Not to forget, all these with the everlasting Coen brothers touch! At the end of the film, it almost feels like these filmmakers are giving themselves a tribute as this film consists of everything that these two have made all these years!
So that last paragraph was just my unavoidable appreciation of this film. Let’s get to the point. We people very much every now and then use the phrase ‘that film was good’. But, how often do we pronounce something like ‘the writing was good’? We get to use it very rarely. And yes, solid writing can be visible in a lot of films but the film may not have impressed you to the full. And I ask you this, When is the time that the writing of a film makes us jealous & you are in complete awe of it? When Coen brothers decide to give us a product like that of “The ballad of buster scruggs”!
These Guys Mock us & the Films that We Watch!
I’ve someone decoded the fact that the writing of this brother duo makes us react this way is because these guys are somehow mocking us. All of us have been exposed to various kinds of cinema and are in constant prediction mode when we watch a film. These guys take advantage of this. I have a feeling when they sketch out a character for instance that of a police officer, they themselves bring in references of how people have sketched police officers in films all these years & also in their own films (just a notion). Somehow, their characters don’t react the way we expect them to.
They take out the most common aspect out of the character & the resultant is something very ripe. So, in a way they are mocking all the films out there & their own films too. I don’t think there’s any way to predict the outcome of a character in a film like “The ballad of buster scruggs” & hence we are surprised almost every single time. This is why, I’m jealous. Surprising every single time isn’t an easy task. We are being mocked at for being so judgemental about a character as we are so much used to certain characters acting a certain way. A little out of the character, we are surprised.
Multiple Irony in a Single Film!
We know that a coen brothers film will have an irony in it. But, this film being a collection of 6 short stories is just 6 different coen brothers films combined together! In Spite of so many ironies spilled throughout these stories, nowhere does it get tiresome or boring or even repetitive for us to watch. Now, that happens only because of a splendid writing. The way each irony plays out is completely different from another something which can be tasted only when watched. Let me quote to you an example.
In the third story, “ Meal Ticket” we have a guy deprived of legs & hands gifted as an orator. It’s his orating skills that is fetching him and his fellow partner (who also takes care of the guy) money for living. We see large crowd gathering in the start of the story. However, towards the end of the story, there’s hardly anyone to see the orator perform. But, in contrast we have another performing troupe that is using just a chicken to perform something having large amount of crowds gathered around with. Now, this is a mockery of how people are consuming art itself. The story doesn’t end here. There’s another bitter irony for us to consume in the end the story which I leave it for you to watch and experience it.
They are way ahead of us always!
Also, one could say that in an anthology, it’s very important to stay ahead of the audience. Because of the same world that each story is set in, people are constantly speculating about what is going to happen next and are predicting the next event. So, these makers were way ahead of us & that’s how the unpredictability was achieved in this film. We expected no deaths in one, but there came a death. We expected death in one, they surprised with how the death came. We expected death in one but they gave us no deaths. So, somehow they are in the control of our minds throughout the film & that’s one important aspect of making an anthology film.