We have seen many depictions of psychopaths in movies and television series. More often than not, the image of Jason Bateman in American Psycho first comes to mind when we talk about psychopaths. But did you know that Bateman was not the most realistic portrayal of a psychopath?
The main antagonist in “No Country for Old Men,” Anton Chigurh, portrayed by Javier Bardem, is 44th in the top 100 list of most notable characters of all time. The Journal of Forensic Sciences also named him the most realistic depiction of a psychopath.
Who is Anton Chigurh?
Anton Chigurh is a fictional character in the film No Country for Old Men in 2007, adapted to screen from one of the novels of author Cormac McCarthy. He is the main antagonist of both the novel and the film. (Source: TMFF)
His character is a man with an odd sense of morals and kills without remorse or hesitation. In the story, he is a professional hitman who collects coins as he travels, believing it was for good luck. He would sometimes use the coins to determine the fate of his victims.
In the story, he was hired in 1980 to retrieve a bag of money from a drug deal that went wrong, only to find out that the money was in possession of one of the story’s characters, Llewelyn Moss. he soon sets out to find Moss, killing anyone who stood in his way.
In the film adaptation, actor Javier Bardem plays Chigurh, depicting an incredibly tough, resourceful, and utterly devoid of conscience. Bardem’s depiction of Chigurh was faithful to the novel, often wearing rugged jeans, a denim jacket, and boots, and has bowl-cut hair, making him look innocent. (Source: Villains)
The Most Realistic Depiction of a Psychopath
Forensic psychiatrists Samuel Leistedt and Paul Linkowski spent three years watching 400 movies. Armed with their experience in interviewing and diagnosing real-life psychopaths, their goal was to look for realistic portrayals in films.
They then eliminated movies whose antagonists were supernatural or whose characters were too unrealistic, leaving them about 126 films from 1915 to 2010. From the 126 movies, 105 were male antagonists, and the remainder were female. Then, a team of ten forensic psychiatrists and movie critics watched these movies and provided their diagnoses.
Leistedt and team did this research for them to develop tools needed to teach psychiatry students, and at the same time, understand how psychopaths have been viewed and understood since the early 20th century.
Their study concluded that Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men was the most realistic and frightening depiction of a real-life psychopath. Leistedt and the team diagnosed Chigurh as a primary and idiopathic psychopath. Cold, innovative, no guilt, no emotion, to which the doctor was reminded of two real-life assassins he got to interview.
Leistedt describes Chigurh’s character as the perfect villain with a bad haircut, describing the character as having the defining trait of all psychopathic types, utterly devoid of empathy. Psychopaths like Chigurh are like machines when they kill, are intelligent, and have the will to get the job done. Then they can sleep at night, having no remorse for the actions they committed. (Source: Science News)