Brett McCracken Interviews the Director of “The Road”

Christianity Today has posted Brett McCracken’s interview with John Hillcoat about directing The Road. Here’s an interesting excerpt:

Is it true that some of the only direction McCarthy gave to you was to make sure the film kept as many of the book’s references to God as possible?

John Hillcoat:
Yes, that’s right. Cormac is very intrigued by grace under pressure and a higher spiritual element than man. He’s also interested in the struggle of faith. In many ways The Road is like a biblical tale or a parable. It’s very simple: A man struggling to survive, haunted by all these memories, who then has a son born into this world. They come across all these obstacles that test them. So in that sense it feels almost like a biblical tale, and it certainly has an incredible moral to tell.

That leap of faith that the boy makes at the end is what it’s all about. The boy is the one who saves the man. The man is under pressure, which we completely understand, and under great duress we see his humanity slipping away. It’s actually the boy who saves him. He’s the one with humanity. But where does the boy get this from? He’s born into this God-forsaken place. Where does his “fire” come from? I think it’s great that McCarthy sort of leaves this open to interpretation. It works on so many levels. For a lot of people, this idea of “carrying the fire” is clearly a spiritual thing. But for other people it might just mean “the higher power of humanity.” But it’s definitely also about faith.

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  • Rick Ro.

    Wow, good stuff here. Very interesting to imagine “No Country” and “The Road” as one body of work. I think I read them in “reverse order” (The Road first, No Country second), and I see how reading them the other way around would have been “preferred” in terms of hopefulness. Anton Chigurh’s character and what he represents (basically “Death”) is so harsh, unrelenting, amoral and cold-hearted…the fact he isn’t brought to justice is very much a “downer.” But to have taken that into “The Road” (which, for all its bleakness does give a glimmer of hope toward the end)…well, that’s quite thought-provoking. In fact, it makes me wonder if one could imagine the unnamed apocalypse in “The Road” as an extension of Anton Chigurh’s character, that Chigurh has become this inescapable, cold-hearted “Death” for all of mankind, with the father and son in “The Road” trying to escape from and find hope in the midst of.

  • Philosophically they read as sequels as well, as No Country bemoans the loss of any sort of collective morality, the rise of a culture of nihilism (which is I think why the Coens were so attracted to it) while The Road explores the idea of hope in the midst of the apocalypse – this idea that there is something larger even if we can’t see it and aren’t so much aware of it anymore as a culture.

  • Jacob, I think you’re absolutely right. I was talking with my former English prof, Dr. Luke Reinsma, about this very thing just a couple of weeks ago. “No Country” ends with the vision of Sheriff Bell’s dream about his father carrying “fire in a horn.” That’s a bold symbol of hope in the darkness, hope for the future. Then, “The Road” is full of references to “carrying the fire” as an expression of holding on to what what remains of the image of God within us… The Word of God. Powerful stuff. “The Road” almost plays like a sequel to “No Country.”

  • Jacob T

    Very interesting. I wonder if there’s any relationship in the “carrying the fire” in The Road and the carried fire mentioned in Sheriff Bell’s dream at the end of No Country? Maybe not but it’s interesting.