Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Appeal and Frustration of Ambiguous Movie Endings

posted by Nell Minow

I like Ann Hornaday’s piece in the Washington Post about ambiguous endings.

In “The Film Snob’s Dictionary,” writers David Kamp and Lawrence Levi cheekily chart out the differences between Movies and Films (“It’s a Movie if it’s black-and-white because it’s old. It’s a Film if it’s black-and-white because it’s Jarmuschy.”) They might have added another definition: It’s a Movie if it ends. It’s a Film if it stops.

Studio films tend to spell everything out — motivations, backstories — while independent films invite the audience to fill in the blanks or just ponder the unanswerable.  One reason for that is money.  Studio films are expensive and have to appeal to the broadest possible audience.  The more money you spend, the more people weigh in on the film’s artistic choices, and the more people weigh in, generally speaking, the more questions get answered on screen.

Of course, even the most definitive-appearing ending leaves a lot open for discussion.  Does finding out what “Rosebud” means in “Citizen Kane answer a question or raise a dozen more?  What happens after Rhett tells Scarlett he does not give a damn what happens to her?  Does anyone ever open that crate in the government warehouse and find the Lost Ark of the Covenant?  What exactly does “happily ever after” mean?

Hornaday discusses some of this year’s most open-ended movies, including “Take Shelter,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” and “Meek’s Cutoff.”  I love to come out of a movie and talk about what I think happens next, don’t you?  Do you have a favorite theory about an ambiguous ending?

 

 

 

 



  • Kevin L.

    There are a lot of movies where the ending is “open”, but where the story being told does not end “ambiguously”. Some examples (SPOILERS):

    > George Clooney is left staring at an enormous airline departure board at the end of “Up in the Air”. The story has ended unambiguously, but where the character goes from here is open.

    > What happens to Ben and Elaine after they ride off in the bus at the end of “The Graduate”? Again, the story is open, but has ended unambiguously. (Then again, someone will go and try to answer that question, and you end up with “Rumor Has It”).

    I’m not sure at what point in the 50′s or 60′s that the use of a “The End” graphic at the end of a movie fell into disuse – it’s rare enough that the last movie I can remember using it was “A Few Good Men” (Rob Reiner told interviewers he specifically wanted to use it.)

    For recent movies, the ambiguous ending of “Inception” sent me back to see it twice. (I won’t tell you my conclusion, but notice the clothing DiCaprio’s children are wearing – and that they haven’t aged.)

    • Nell Minow

      Kevin L: great list! And James C.: that was my reaction, too. I hope he made it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment James C

    My family spent a long time discussing the ending of “Inception”. We all WANTED DiCaprio to return to his family, but that top never actually fell…

Previous Posts

Back to School Guidelines for Parents on Kids and Media
Screen time is a treat, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure that it comes only after homework, chores, other kinds of play, and family time. Make sure there is some quiet time each day as well. The spirit is nourished by silence. All too often, we try to drown out our unsettled or lonely fe

posted 8:00:27am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

After the Ice Bucket Challenge: Two Upcoming Movies About People With ALS
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought a lot of money and attention to a devastating illness, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease for the the New York Yankee who had to leave baseball when he was afflicted with ALS. Two upcoming films about people with ALS

posted 7:00:17am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Thursdays in September on Turner Classic Movies: The Jewish Experience on Film
This month, TCM has an excellent series of films about the Jewish experience, every Thursday. TCM proudly presents The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film, a weekly showcase of movies focusing on Jewish history and heritage as portrayed onscreen. Co-hosting the films each Thursday is D

posted 9:21:56pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Start the School Year With a No-Screen Week
A new study shows another good reason to detox from all screen time now and then, especially for kids.  Children who take a five-day break from all screens are better at reading real-life facial expressions to understand the emotions of the people around them.  Psyblog described the study, which s

posted 3:56:33pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

COMING THIS MONTH: September 2014 Movies
Happy September!  There isn't much new in theaters this Friday, but next week things start to pick up. Here's the best of what's coming in theaters this month: September 12: "Dolphin Tale 2"  This sequel to the endearing fact-based "Dolphin Tale" brings back stars Harry Connick, Jr., Morgan Fr

posted 8:00:52am Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.