Joel and Ethan Coenmasterpiece from 1996 Fargo opens with a very specific disclaimer: “This is a true story. The events of this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest have been told exactly as it happened. “And from there, Coens spins a tale that seems too funny pervert to be true. So what is the true story here? Was Fargo based on actual events? Or did Coens just pull our legs all the time?
One thing we can say for sure is that despite what they want you to believe, the coens certainly did not dramatize any real events “exactly as it happened.” Fargo tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), an economically restrained Oldsmobile dealer hiring two ne-do-wells, Carl and Gaear (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrüd). Jerry’s plan is to use the kidnapping to blackmail his father-in-law (Harve Presnell), who owns the dealership where Jerry works, for some much-needed cash.
Since this is a Coen Brothers movie, it’s easy to guess that the criminals do not end up being particularly bright, and things quickly spiral out of control, especially once a clever and very pregnant police detective named Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) begins to work on the case. After Gaear murders a state trooper, he starts hitting head with Carl, while Jerry becomes more and more desperate to pick up his wife. It would be tragic if Coens were not so good at finding the dark humor under the most bizarre and violent circumstances. Jerry’s blackmail attempt ends up completely collapsing, while Carl finds himself at the wrong end of a wood chipper in the film’s most cruel (and probably most famous) scene.
Which all leads us back to the question: Is any of this a true story, as the film claims? For the most part, the answer is no.
In 2016, in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary, Ethan Coen told HuffPost that the disclaimer was added to the film to set a certain tone. “We wanted to make a movie just in the genre of a true story film,” he said. “You don’t have to have a true story to make a true story film.” In essence, Coens wanted the film to carry the feeling of being a crappy true crime story, even though the events presented never happened. However, the claim of the “true story” is not quite a full-on-fib, as Coens chose a few real-life details to include in the film. The wood chipper was inspired by a murder in reality that happened in Connecticut about a decade before Fargo was released. A man named Richard Crafts was arrested and found guilty of killing his wife and using a wood chipper to dispose of her body. And Joel Coen told HuffPost that Macy’s character was loosely inspired by a real General Motors employee who tried to deceive the company by “rubberizing” serial numbers for some of their cars – a scam similar to the one the movie suggests Jerry is involved in. in before he goes over to kidnapping.
So like many filmmakers before them, Coen Brothers snapped a few real-life details to incorporate into their highly fictional films. The disclaimer claiming it’s all true is just a bit of a stylistic touch. Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation Noah Hawleyis an excellent TV series Fargo, which was inspired by the original film and has been running for four seasons on FX. (It also streams on Hulu.)
Fargo The TV series has a number of tricky connections to Fargo the movie. (The most notable thing is that the folder full of money that Buscemi’s character buries in the snow of the movie ends up reappearing in the show.) But one of the most obvious recalls is that each episode of the series opens with exactly the same bit of text proclaiming that what you are about to see is a “true story”, “at the request of the survivors the names have been changed” and “out of respect for the dead the rest have been told exactly as it happened. “The only thing that changes from season to season is the stated date and location, which Fargo The TV show is an anthology that jumps around in time and place to tell a new story each season. As with the film, Hawley’s use of the disclaimer helps set the tone for each episode, but also like the film, it’s really just a lot of bunk.
KEEP READING: The ‘Fargo’ actor and creator of the unpredictable joys of season 4
The adaptation, starring John Cho, premieres in November.
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