Welcome to the forum

If this is your first time on the new forum since March 7th, 2017, please re-register with us once more.
Paypal contributions for the care and feeding of the forum may be made here:
PayPal Donations

The old bulletin board archive can be found here:
See more
See less

Ambiguous and Open Ended Film Endings

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Ambiguous and Open Ended Film Endings

    I believe that the trend in ambiguous and open ended film endings started around the late sixties and early seventies. Some were obviously with a view to make a sequel, while others were just controversial and stylish.

    Here are a few examples that come to mind: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Dandy in Aspic (1968), The Italian Job (1969), The Wild Bunch (1969).

    I’m sure there must be other movies out there that fit the bill?

    Perhaps I should also add, does anyone know how this trend came about and who were the pioneers?
    Last edited by Mikey; 13th February 2018, 02:51 PM.

  • #2
    The Blue Lagoon (1949) was ambiguous.


    • #3

      So it was a trend that was not started in the sixties, but rather one that became popular around the turn of the decade, sixties to seventies?


      • #4
        A Matter of Life and Death (1946) can be considered to be ambiguou. Was he really seeing "the other place" or was it all in his fevered imagination?

        I expect that films with ambiguous endings have been around as long as films have been telling stories



        • #5

          Thanks for adding to the discussion with good solid information.

          Have I picked off the main ambiguous late sixties movies with my four films in the first post?


          • #6
            I would call Ingmar Bergman and Harold Pinter from the early 60s as pioneers of this trend.


            • #7

              Could you give any examples of Ingmar Bergman and Harold Pinter movies from the early sixties that incorporated this trend.


              • #8
                [QUOTE=Mikey;n53862]I believe that the trend in ambiguous and open ended film endings started around the late sixties and early seventies. Some were obviously with a view to make a sequel, while others were just controversial and stylish.

                Here are a few examples that come to mind: The Wild Bunch (1969). [/QUOTE]

                [COLOR=black][FONT=Arial]Not really ambiguous or open - they all died! Unless you mean their motivation for the final gunfight? It's one of my all-time faves, watched it again last weekend.[/FONT][/COLOR]

                [FONT=Arial]Michelangelo Antonioni is justly famous for the way his films end. His 60s trilogy - L'Avventura, La Notte, and famously L'Eclisse (we spend the last 3 minutes waiting for the lovers to appear at their various meeting places, but they never arrive), all of which are 'ambiguous' and 'open', as well as Blow Up.[/FONT]

                [FONT=Arial]If we exclude the filmic works of the surrealists & avant-gardists of the 20s and 30s, I would say most European new wave cinema (i.e. from 1959 on) have 'open' endings only in the sense that as opposed (often deliberately) to U.S. cinema, where there would always be a resolution (to close the drama), they deal mainly with peoples lives, so there is an awareness that the characters always live on after the film ends, that we've simply come to the end of this particular phase or event in life. Also the difference between U.S. film making(which was often genre defined) and European cinema which was more 'personal' and less dependant on genre tropes.[/FONT]

                [FONT=Arial]So I would say European cinema had 'open' endings but only because the dramatic resolution does not resolve the characters lives, they move on, get new jobs, meet new people or more simply just carry on living. In this sense most Bergman films have 'open' endings even if as in The Seventh Seal the characters die (because three's still the young couple the Knight saves from Death).[/FONT]

                [FONT=Arial]'Ambiguous' endings , unless the director is untalented, are normally deliberately made so. The most famous examples I can recall are late50s/early 60s, Last Year at Marienbad (did the couple meet last year? if so, was it at Marienbad? and which of the three endings to their former meeting that we see are genuine, if any?) and L'Avventura (which does not resolve the fate of Anna, the character whose disappearance supposedly drives the plot), which was booed initially by the audience at Cannes exactly for this reason. As it was clearly done deliberately, and had a huge impact on European cinema when shown at Cannes, I suppose the 'earliest' example was the Japanese film Rashomon (1950), which is made up of 'flashbacks' told by the' witnesses', one at least of which is false, and maybe all are 'false' in some sense so that in the end the 'guilt' of the bandit is not proven either way.[/FONT]

                [FONT=Arial]The only Bergman film I can think of that deliberately has an ambiguous rather than open ending is The Virgin Spring (1959). What is the meaning of the spring that 'miraculously' appears at the head of the murdered girl. Is it proof of the existence of God, the amoral indifference of nature to human life, or simply a serendipity that will be used by others as proof of the miraculous? The rest of his films I would say have open endings, with the infamous exception of course of Persona (1966) whose mirrored bookends suggest the film is 'closed' as a purely fictional creation.[/FONT]

                [FONT=Arial]Phew ... well, you did ask for some examples. obviously I haven't had time to research this, this is purely my response based on what I can recall at this moment.[/FONT]
                Last edited by agutterfan; 14th February 2018, 02:02 PM.


                • #9
                  Mikey, surely one of the most notable open-ended films is [B]The Day the Earth Caught Fire[/B]. Early 60s I know, but the inconclusive ending always haunted me since as a child I first saw the film on television.