In No Country For Old Men, when Chigurh visits Llewellyn Moss’s wife to kill her, she says, quavering, “You don’t have to do this.” to which he smilingly replies “Everybody says that”. Compare this to Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, when a much more literal representation of Death appears to the knight Antonius Block:
BLOCK. Wait a moment.
DEATH. You all say that.
Bergman’s Death, with his games of chess, his dark humour and his unremitting sense of purpose, is surely an ancestor of Chigurh. The Seventh Seal was Bergman’s response to the horrors of the nuclear age, just as No Country is McCarthy and the Coens’ response to the age of terror. Both films use historical settings as parallels to the evils of their times; both, too, are reminders that evil is not unique to ours. When Ed Tom Bell goes to meet his uncle towards the end of the film, saying that the world has become too bleak for him, his uncle reminds him of equally horrendous killings from the turn of the last century. Our horror, both films remind us, is not a condition of modernity; it’s a condition of humanity.