Study Guide

Fargo Production Design

Production Design

Capture the Stillness

When the Coens were making Fargo, they wanted to go for a really authentic look. The film was shot on location in the Twin Cities area, on film (35 mm—digital wasn't a big thing yet), using lots of still shots with non-moving cameras. Joel and Ethan described this process in an interview:

Joel Coen: It was easier for us in this case than with our other films. We talked it over a great deal with Roger Deakins [the cinematographer] because we wanted to shoot a good many exterior long shots. From the very beginning, we determined to use nothing but shots where the camera does not move.

Ethan Coen: Afterward we decided that this purist attitude was pretty stupid.

What was the purpose of these still shots? Perhaps it was to heighten the sense of the stillness of the landscape, the lack of motion characteristic of wintertime. It's either peaceful or disturbing, depending on the context. The directors said they wanted to de-emphasize the action and drama. Despite all the violent action, the mood of the film is one of distance and detachment.

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