Ambiguous endings

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Ambiguous endings

Postby mkiker2089 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:07 pm

Spoilers obviously. Ambiguous endings often have more to do with the viewer than the movie. Often I've seen people interpret things to mean what they wanted them to rather than what was given on the screen. Anyone have examples of endings that are somewhat open, or that people say are open but really aren't.

Inception - someone tried to convince me that only 3 people were real. I never understood that. I know the scene where he doesn't spin the top but drops it in the bathroom was cited as "telling.". I can't see what 3 people would be real however and say either everyone is real, two people are real (the two in the opening) or no one is real. I of course lean towards everyone being real and the dreams are revealed after them, just like dreams in real life. that's the genius of it. The ending has a bit of a red herring to it that I think spoiled the picture a little. Perhaps Nolan had a flash of art snobbery or something.

Shutter Island - I also think this one is pretty straight forward when it ties it up. Some people empathise with DiCaprio and can't accept him as insane and would rather see the movie as an elaborate ploy where a sane martial was lobotomized because the doctors just wanted to. The special features on the DVD make it very clear that everyone involved (other than Scorsese himself who didn't say) things the ending is pretty straight forward. The ending was influenced by the not to distant resurgance of mental therapy surgeries with the regard that the risks were worth it. I can elaborate more being a psychology school drop out if anyone is interested. I won't bore the rest.

Xmen3- Magneto moved the piece. That I admit is me, but losing Magneto is like losing a favorite kitten or having all Reese's Peanut Butter Cups expunged from history. In short, not cool. It's pretty obvious that Xavier survived by transferring to the brain dead twin. That would have been an interesting thing to move forward with. I'm not sure if a movie is in it, but it surely needs to be elaborated on.

American Beauty - I recall people wondering about the narration. I don't recall the hype but people felt tricked. Anyone recall this?
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mavrach » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:42 am

Blade Runner - The "is Deckard a replicant?" angle is so amiguous they left it to creative fans to figure out. It's not even part of the main story.

Before Sunrise had an ambiguous ending ruined by the sequel Before Sunset. The first ended as a fairy tale, that they would meet again in a few months and live happily ever after. The sequel turned that into a blunt reality where they didn't meet up and both settled into unidealistic lives, pretty much living in sadness as a result of the whole experience. So ambiguity runs the risk of a sequel exploiting that at the expense of your imagination.

mkiker2089 wrote:American Beauty - I recall people wondering about the narration. I don't recall the hype but people felt tricked. Anyone recall this?


I don't remember any hype on this, but I can see where it could be confusing. He was speaking the whole time, talking about how he was going to die. In most movies, you'll see the story progress up until that apparrent "death," only to see them survive into the final act somehow. Think Casino. And a narration from the afterlife is a bit of a rarity. But in the end, his brains were blown all over the kitchen, so I don't see any abiguity.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Steve T Power » Wed Nov 02, 2011 8:02 am

mavrach wrote:Blade Runner - The "is Deckard a replicant?" angle is so amiguous they left it to creative fans to figure out. It's not even part of the main story.


The first time I saw the director's cut I'd agree, but as soon as I thought about it, it all really fell into place for me. I also feel it adds significantly to the undertones of the film's man vs. machine/what defies humanity theme. It's far from superfluous when you think about it, but that's the joy of Blade Runner.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:14 pm

Here's a more obscure one: the 1968 sci-fi movie "The Power" from producer George Pal.

In the original book, the lead character (Tanner) has discovered that he's a powerful telepath. After killing off Hart, the villainous telepath who was after him, Tanner walks off, determined to follow the same path as Hart. He's going to use his powers to take over the world, and he doesn't seem like he'll be a good guy.

The movie changes it, though. After defeating Hart, Tanner realizes how powerful he is. He still walks off into the night, but he's not determined to take over. Instead, he says, "They say power corrupts, and absolute power...I don't know." It looks hopeful that he'll resist the urge to become a dictator, but we're not totally sure.

Good movie, by the way. It's out on DVD from the MGM archive collection.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mkiker2089 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:58 pm

On Blade Runner I still insist it's a red herring. It's so vague that I just don't accept it at all. Deckard is a human. Then again I disagree with them cutting the ending also. Country side will always exist and people will still crowd to cities. They do it now, look at Japan. Tokyo is so huge and crowded you can't walk around but the areas outside it are normal suburbs. People don't spread out in any logical manner. I can also site Atlanta Georgia where most of Gerogia is tiny villages, upstate New York, Washington DC and it's outlying areas, and many more. the ending fit the characters.I also liked the narration because I think narration is a powerful but mostly misused tool. However the narration was so poor I think it needs to be redone, even if it means bringing in a new voice talent that isn't morally opposed to it.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Steve T Power » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:28 am

mkiker2089 wrote:On Blade Runner I still insist it's a red herring. It's so vague that I just don't accept it at all. Deckard is a human. Then again I disagree with them cutting the ending also. Country side will always exist and people will still crowd to cities. They do it now, look at Japan. Tokyo is so huge and crowded you can't walk around but the areas outside it are normal suburbs. People don't spread out in any logical manner. I can also site Atlanta Georgia where most of Gerogia is tiny villages, upstate New York, Washington DC and it's outlying areas, and many more. the ending fit the characters.I also liked the narration because I think narration is a powerful but mostly misused tool. However the narration was so poor I think it needs to be redone, even if it means bringing in a new voice talent that isn't morally opposed to it.


One of the points Scott was trying to make was in a future that shitty, countrysides didn't exist. No one would live in those cities if pastoral meadowlands were a car ride away. It's practically a calling card of the Cyberpunk genre. Another being the whole blurring of the line between real humanity vs artificial humanity and what defines us as individuals. What makes us human? In that regard, Blade Runner was ridiculously ahead of its time. It's an incredibly forward thinking film.

Also - the replicant evidence is there right from the opening. It's not something that was constructed in 1992, but rather something that was hidden by the producers when the film was released theatrically.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Andrew Forbes » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:42 am

Steve T Power wrote:No one would live in those cities if pastoral meadowlands were a car ride away.

The entirety of urban history disproves that theory.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mkiker2089 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:50 pm

Andrew Forbes wrote:
Steve T Power wrote:No one would live in those cities if pastoral meadowlands were a car ride away.

The entirety of urban history disproves that theory.


Yeah, Me thinks R. Scott has never been to Atlanta. You go from urban hell to no one within miles in less than an hours drive. I get his idea, I just don't think he pulled that one off either. Then again how do you prove an entire world is a city? You have to at least say it I guess.

I still don't see the Replicant Deckard thing. To me it's all too vague. I think if Scott wanted it he failed even on his cut of the film. Sure a guy who makes all kinds of origami just happened to make a unicorn. Big whoop.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mavrach » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:03 pm

The clue that the environment was destroyed was in the artificial animals. They were there because the real animals were far too rare and valuable. Also they established that humans started to explore space, another hint that we'd outgrown earth. That was how he described that the world was a mess.

And if we're all debating this back & forth, that's perfect proof that Blade Runner is ambiguous.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Steve T Power » Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:56 pm

mavrach wrote:The clue that the environment was destroyed was in the artificial animals. They were there because the real animals were far too rare and valuable. Also they established that humans started to explore space, another hint that we'd outgrown earth. That was how he described that the world was a mess.

And if we're all debating this back & forth, that's perfect proof that Blade Runner is ambiguous.


POINT Mavrach!
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:06 pm

There's also the end of the British sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Caught Fire". They're just about to enact a desperate plan to save the planet, and the movie ends without revealing what happened. All we see are two possible newspaper headlines waiting to be printed: WORLD SAVED and WORLD DOOMED.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mkiker2089 » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:30 am

Kenneth Morgan wrote:There's also the end of the British sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Caught Fire". They're just about to enact a desperate plan to save the planet, and the movie ends without revealing what happened. All we see are two possible newspaper headlines waiting to be printed: WORLD SAVED and WORLD DOOMED.


That sounds like a cheap ending to me. I'm sure someone convinced themselves it's clever however.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:21 pm

mkiker2089 wrote:
Kenneth Morgan wrote:There's also the end of the British sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Caught Fire". They're just about to enact a desperate plan to save the planet, and the movie ends without revealing what happened. All we see are two possible newspaper headlines waiting to be printed: WORLD SAVED and WORLD DOOMED.


That sounds like a cheap ending to me. I'm sure someone convinced themselves it's clever however.


On the contrary, the movie is very well-made and I think the ending works. I'd recommend you check it out; it's available on DVD with a commentary from director Val Guest.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby hoytereden » Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:25 pm

Kenneth Morgan wrote:
mkiker2089 wrote:
Kenneth Morgan wrote:There's also the end of the British sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Caught Fire". They're just about to enact a desperate plan to save the planet, and the movie ends without revealing what happened. All we see are two possible newspaper headlines waiting to be printed: WORLD SAVED and WORLD DOOMED.


That sounds like a cheap ending to me. I'm sure someone convinced themselves it's clever however.


On the contrary, the movie is very well-made and I think the ending works. I'd recommend you check it out; it's available on DVD with a commentary from director Val Guest.

Agreed. A fine sci-fi film. Look fast and you can see Michael Caine!
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby MovieAddict » Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:23 pm

Swimming Pool

I'm still trying to figure this one out
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mavrach » Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:52 pm

MovieAddict wrote:Swimming Pool

I'm still trying to figure this one out


It's been a while since I saw this one. Wasn't the ending that the entire mystery was the book that the main character was writing?
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Attrage » Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:10 pm

Another Philip K Dick adaptation that gets almost as much online chatter about its ambigious ending is Total Recall. The famous "fade to white" at the end, was he lobotomised? Was it all in his head? arguments are endless.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mkiker2089 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:11 pm

Attrage wrote:Another Philip K Dick adaptation that gets almost as much online chatter about its ambigious ending is Total Recall. The famous "fade to white" at the end, was he lobotomised? Was it all in his head? arguments are endless.


I always thought the events were real. It never even occured to me that they weren't, well not seriously. Two reasons 1- one rule of narration is to remember your perspective and keep verb - noun tense correct. When they discover the hidden memories it's in an omniscient perspective since the Ah'nold is out cold, therefore according to the dictates of narrative the scene is real as stated. 2- the scene where the man trying to convince him it's all a figment starts sweating. Add in the ex wife and it just seems to cement it more. Then again I was younger and more naive when I saw it. I may need to revisit that one.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Steve T Power » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:32 am

mkiker2089 wrote:
Attrage wrote:Another Philip K Dick adaptation that gets almost as much online chatter about its ambigious ending is Total Recall. The famous "fade to white" at the end, was he lobotomised? Was it all in his head? arguments are endless.


I always thought the events were real. It never even occured to me that they weren't, well not seriously. Two reasons 1- one rule of narration is to remember your perspective and keep verb - noun tense correct. When they discover the hidden memories it's in an omniscient perspective since the Ah'nold is out cold, therefore according to the dictates of narrative the scene is real as stated. 2- the scene where the man trying to convince him it's all a figment starts sweating. Add in the ex wife and it just seems to cement it more. Then again I was younger and more naive when I saw it. I may need to revisit that one.


Well if you think about that first scene where Quaid goes to recall, everything that follows is exactly how it's all described to him when he's sitting in the salesman's office. Honestly, as much as I love Verhoven, and as cheesy fun as Total Recall is, he was a poor choice to direct that story. He lacks the subtlety needed to pull off the ambiguity of the original story.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby Attrage » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:14 pm

Steve T Power wrote:
mkiker2089 wrote:
Attrage wrote:Another Philip K Dick adaptation that gets almost as much online chatter about its ambigious ending is Total Recall. The famous "fade to white" at the end, was he lobotomised? Was it all in his head? arguments are endless.


I always thought the events were real. It never even occured to me that they weren't, well not seriously. Two reasons 1- one rule of narration is to remember your perspective and keep verb - noun tense correct. When they discover the hidden memories it's in an omniscient perspective since the Ah'nold is out cold, therefore according to the dictates of narrative the scene is real as stated. 2- the scene where the man trying to convince him it's all a figment starts sweating. Add in the ex wife and it just seems to cement it more. Then again I was younger and more naive when I saw it. I may need to revisit that one.


Well if you think about that first scene where Quaid goes to recall, everything that follows is exactly how it's all described to him when he's sitting in the salesman's office. Honestly, as much as I love Verhoven, and as cheesy fun as Total Recall is, he was a poor choice to direct that story. He lacks the subtlety needed to pull off the ambiguity of the original story.


Yeah, Verhoeven is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the nuts, but I think he did remarkably well with Total Recall. And I think what's great about the film's abiguity is that you can see it either way, real or all-in-his-head, and the film still works.
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Re: Ambiguous endings

Postby mavrach » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:55 pm

I feel the same way about Labyrinth, Pan's Labyrinth and Mirrormask. They work as imaginations of the heroines to overcome their real-life stresses, or they work as fantasy films.
+1. this is very interesting.
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