I've been thinking about endings lately. Actually, this gem of a thread over at NeoGaf got me thinking about them. To sum up, the poster lambasts the Cohen Brothers for an abrupt ending to their film. If you haven't seen the film (which, if this is the case you should run to the theater immediately) the situation is comporable to the Director's Cut of Blade Runner. Ambiguity left up to the interpretation of the audience. Use this as a refrence if needed.
Now I, along with many other film snobs, prefer Blade Runner's Director's Cut as the film allows us to draw our own conclusions about the story and themes of the film. At it's base it forces us to think analytically about the film and even encourages us to view the film again to flesh out whatever thoughts we have.
Before I get too far, I suppose that I must say that there is something to be said for the original cut of Blade Runner along with every other film which spells out it's themes and narriative as bluntly as possible. This is the form of cinema which allows us to just sit back and enjoy a good distraction. Sometimes we just want to shut off the brain and be entertained. The problem with films like this is that they don't have much persistance. They don't generally have any kind of lasting impact on our thoughts. Sure I loved watching John McClain blow the shit out of the bad guys in Die Hard, but I didn't find myself thinking differently about the world or any statements the film may have had embedded within it.
One of my favorite endings of all time is in the film Children of Men. Not only was it a fantastic "what if" look at a society without children, but the ending said everything it needed to say with 3 words and some sound effects. The movie follows Theo as he attempts to get the only pregnant woman in the world to safety. In the end he dies having sucessfully protected the woman and delivering her to an organization which will protect her. Upon his death the screen goes dark, the film title is displayed across the screen and we hear a child laughing. The sound grows as more and more children begin to laugh until it becomes a cacophany of sound which ends abruptly. Roll credits.
What's so awesome about that ending is that it takes some thought to decipher. I recall hearing groans of disappointment when I saw the film in the theaters. Even my wife didn't really understand it until I shared my thoughts with her. The story which ended when Theo died. We are then given the happiest ending we can get from the wholly dystopian world in the film. One child laughing happily joined by other children and then more children signifying the repopulation of the human race. That was it. That was all we as an audience needed to know.
No Country for Old Men is very similar, though I believe it may be more pregnant with meaning than Children of Men. Most importantly it made me think. It made me think of how the world of the film would continue after the credits had ended. It made me think of why the Cohen Brothers and, initially, Cormac McCarthy chose to end their story in such a way and what I as an audience member should glean from that choice.
The best forms of art are the forms that make us think and question. Endings are so important because its the final experience of that art. It's the most prominant and lasting thing we experience in art. It's why I prefer endings presented in the forms of questions. Ending that make me wonder at its own purpose, and in that wonder bring me back into the world of film and remember and question things from it's main body.
Now go watch No Country for Old Men. And go read Cormac McCarthy.