5. Greed and arrogance as the main motivation
Toward the end of the film, just before Reiner suffers a violent death, Malkina says to him: “Greed really takes you to the edge doesn’t it?” He answers: “That’s not what greed does. That’s what greed is.” In one word, the essence of greed is that it is without an end point. It is what the Greek called “pleonexia”; a limitless desire for more.
The tragedies that occur in the film are products of that limitless desire, but also “hubris”, an arrogance that the Greeks believed consists of a desire to be like gods themselves. Immanuel Wallerstein, a political theorist, wrote that the American spirit consists of “hubris” and Calvinist guilt.
At several points in the movie, the Counselor, after being told to let go of the subject, wants to be informed. His desire to possess more than he does, although he practically has everything men usually wish for, his arrogance in thinking that he is up to the task he embarks upon, ultimately bring him to ruin. Due to a tragic element in the nature of greed, but also his “hubris”, he ends up being overcome with a feeling of remorse and guilt. He is a broken man.
6. Malkina – a female predator
Malkina is a character similar to other characters in McCarthy’s novels, whose agenda is destruction and is more of a symbol of the “smoldering rage at the bottom of it.” She represents evil that was created along with man; the agent who pursues extinction of the decadent humanity. To draw a parallel with “No Country for Old Men” and with Chigurh’s character, the answer to humanity’s constant misdoings is the act of annihilation through the following of principles.
In “The Road”, that agent is the apocalypse, and there is certainly something apocalyptic in Malkina’s character. She prophecies: “And the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.” At the end of the movie, after a violent death or devastation of other main characters, she walks away with a smile and millions of dollars.
She is a predator who says: “The hunter has grace, beauty, and purity of heart to be found nowhere else. You can make no distinction between what they are and what they do. And what they do is kill. We, of course are another matter. It is our faintness of heart that has driven us to the edge of ruin.” Her view on the hunter and his use of instincts resembles the Nietzschean theory of the role of instincts in life.
Nietzsche admired the graciousness of animals who do not need reason to act, but act simply in according to what they are. They are predators, so they kill. Humans, on the other hand, as he explains in “Genealogy of Morality”, tend to separate the act from the things as if it is something completely distinct.
7. Emphasis on sexuality and excessive violence
Sexuality has an important place in “The Counselor”. The sex scene in the beginning provoked various kinds of responses, from the one that was called “the most outrageous sex scene of the year” to the one where the Counselor and Laura seem like they are wrapped in the sheets like mummies.
The sex scene involving Malkina and a Ferrari may be considered outrageous to some viewers, while others might find it entertaining. Malkina says that to see a quarry killed with elegance is a sexual kind of experience.
The movie’s “excesses” regarding violence reach a final point when Westray is killed by a mechanical device with a steel cable, made of some “unholy alloy” that is thrown around a victim’s neck, slowly strangling him, cutting the arteries, and in the end decapitating him. It is called a “bolito” and is a modified version of a Spanish execution device called “garrote”, which simply strangled the victim.
Earlier in the film, Reiner explains the nature of the device and we can easily guess that it will be used later in the film. In a letter explaining the term known as “Chekhov’s gun”, the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote: “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” “The Counselor” certainly keeps its promises.
Author Bio: Hrvoje Galich is a student of political science and writes expressionist poetry. He believes that Tristan und Isolde is the most beautiful artistic piece in the history of man. He loves movies by Andrei Tarkovsky, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Shohei Imamura. He adores his cat “Meow”, the only cat in the world that can say her name.