Fargo – Analysing the Title

As detailed in my analysis of Fargo’s opening title sequence, this blog will focus on another aspect of Volger’s book – the significance of the Title. Volger illustrates that atmosphere could be achieved before the story begins through the careful selection of the tittles, music, lighting and miss-en-scene (2007, pp. 84). The idea of the title is to deduce the narrative down to a metaphor. Vogler writers that ‘the mythological approach to story boils down to using metaphors or comparisons to get across your feelings about life’ (2007, pp. 84). The title can give a ‘clue’ to the narrative’s context and the writer’s attitude and personality (2007, pp. 85). Essentially, it becomes a complex way of describing the hero or the world.


Vogler uses The Godfather to illustrate this point. Careful examination of typography is a significant way to create interpretation (Ambrose & Harris, 2006). Vogler describes the titles of The Godfather as an implication that Don Corleone is both a father and god to his people, while the puppeteer graphic suggests he has control over people (2007, pp. 85).

title fargo

Fargo’s title essentially misrepresents the film as Levan points out that the humour comes from the fact that the audience only ever visit Fargo once in the entire film (2000, pp. 29). This is significant in a multitude of ways, as GEOGRAPHY is a major theme deployed in Fargo. From understanding the geographical space and sitance in Fargo, Levan believes we can follow the ‘slow, slippery slide into the mess and on towards the inevitable close of the story’ (2000, pp. 30). In other words, geography can be used a metaphor for deception. In a geographical perspective, the time it takes to get from each location is important as the audience make sense of the chronology of the narrative. The frequent use of the ‘ellipsis’ to leave ‘dead time’ the viewer can fill (2000, pp. 31) are emphasised when the characters’ travelling is brought into focus. Levan writes that ‘the compression of time is all done by omitting the unimportant’ (2000, pp. 33). Kroeber contributes the ‘linguistic and climatological localisation’ as a way of heightening the humour to make the audience laugh at truths they normally don’t find funny. The humour is an observation and generates an empathy from the audience, especially those familiar with North Dakota (2006, pp. 182). Essentially, the title of ‘Fargo’ is a dominant way of expressing the constant amount of locations, travelling and time left unexplained. This is accentuated by the tracking space of the letters to separate the distance implied in the linear stretch of road the majority of the film takes place on.

On the topic of deception, a major plot point is when Marge discovers that a multitude of characters are lying to her, causing the inevitable discovery of the villains. This idea will be explained in it’s own blog post about Film Noir, but for the time being, it’s important to consider the neo-noir stylisation that the Coen brothers use. Luhr (2004) writes that the stereotyped characterisation found in Fargo is mystified by Film Noir, which the Coens think highly of if indeed not directly influenced by it. In Luhr’s more recent writings, he shows that the deception, femme fatale and darkness surrounding noir can be largely ignored by neo-noir which means they don’t have to depict genre conventions within a set style, but instead provide evidence that the film is renewing the genre (2012, pp. 189). In other words, deception is inherently part of Fargo’s style but is subtly embedded in order to convey a different emotional impact. The title reinforces this point as the Coens, who were raised in Minnesota, use familiarity to represent the world as ‘bland, unemotional and almost inscrutable’, as Levan notes (2000, pp. 7). The title is objective and non-stylised and as Levan suggests, in order to maintain a consistency between the titles and the actual visuals, everything must remain ‘b;an aced so that it appears nothing is out of the ordinary’ (2000, pp. 52). Thus, it maintains deception by not becoming ominous or distinct.

As we’ll see in later blogs, the title is supplement of the themes presented in the film. The tracking is spread out to maintain the sense of loneliness and isolation found in the visuals, while also suggesting a sense of deception through the letters keeping a distance. The geography that is prominently displayed in the constant travelling is subtly manifested in the titles to show the scattered and linear settlement – the foundation of the film’s local.


AMBROSE, G. (2006) The Fundamentals of Typography. Lausanne: AVA Publishing. London: Thames & Hudson

LEVAN S. (2000) Fargo. Halow: Longman

LUHR W. (2004) The Coen Brother’s Fargo. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press

LUHR W. (2012) Film Noir. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell

KROEBER, K. (2006) Make Believe in Film and Fiction: Visual vs. Verbal Storytelling. New York: Palgrave MacMillan

VOGLER, C. (2007) The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 3rd Ed. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions


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