Alastair Bruce is Fargo’s Marge Gunderson


Alastair Bruce was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1972 and studied at the University of Cape Town, where he started a science degree, but ended up with a major in English literature. His haunting dystopian debut, Wall of Days (Clerkenwell Press) has been described as a ‘post-apocalyptic Robinson Crusoe‘ and deals with guilt, historical revision and reconciliation. Eithne Farry

A character in a film I really admire is Marge Gunderson in Fargo, played by Frances McDormand. What I admire is how she reacts to the mayhem about her. Whether she is confronted by grisly murders or inept and uncomfortable attempts to chat her up, she deals with it all with a stoic demeanour and is unfazed by the insanity around her. She is the calm centre of a hurricane.

The film itself is possibly The Coen brothers’ best, though Barton Fink and No Country for Old Men run it close. William Macy and Steve Buscemi are fantastic in the movie as well. It’s the combination of the bleak snowy landscapes of Minnesota, the gruesome and quite shocking violence, and the black comedy that makes it so compelling. Add in a character who shows incredible bravery, especially since she is seven months pregnant, and maintains a polite and likeable mien in the face of everything that goes on around her, and it’s no wonder it is seen as a modern classic.

Marge is extremely self-effacing. She politely lets down an old acquaintance who hits on her. After solving a murder and bringing a killer to justice she gets into bed with her husband and listens to him talk about how a drawing of his has been selected to appear on a 3c stamp but not the 29c stamp. When she says that she is proud of him and that everyone uses the 3c stamp it shows that she is the sort of person we could probably all be a bit more like. The unfussy and unemotional way of reacting to events is not that of an uncaring rationalist. It’s the reaction of someone vested with unbound empathy. Politicians and tabloids take note.

And then there’s the accent. The melodious Minnesota accent, sounding almost Nordic, is almost the best thing about the film, and that’s saying something.

Alastair Bruce