Order is meaningless. And I could have written fifty of these, but this is just ten. I tried not to repeat a director, and actually found that it wasn’t hard.
The Mirror by Tarkovsky.
Not that there is one cathartic moment or scene at the end of this film, but that by the end of this film, the imagery and music have come together to form a catharsis, and it never fails to open something inside of me.
Seven by Fincher.
Most mainstream films don’t have the balls to end a film the way this one ended. In fact, the studio tried to get Fincher to change it, to give it a happy ending (can you imagine?), but to his credit Brad Pitt said the ending stays, or he goes, and the studio relented. And we have the perfect ending to that film.
Syndromes and a Century by Weeresethakul.
One of the things about ‘Joe’ that I feel is most overlooked in discussions of his film is his sense of humor. After having watched this film for its entirety, and been treated to many long, solemn and enigmatic takes, often with little or no explanation, the ending of the film comes as a total surprise, a reminder about the joy in life, and a reminder to smile.
The Long Day Closes by Davies.
The entire film is memorable, but the ending is so hauntingly poetic, ending with the titular song, sung in a reverential chorus. The imagery of the sun sinking through the clouds in black and white as that song ends the film gives it a power that resonates long after it’s over.
Vive l’amour by Tsai.
The final shot, an unbroken image of a woman completely breaking down in a public park, absolutely encapsulates the entire film. Her isolation is total—even though she shares the park with other people, no one so much as turns her way as she sobs. And when she’s finished, she lights a cigarette almost post-coitally, as if she relishes her distance from other humans as much as she loathes it, thus bringing Tsai’s commentary to a close.
The Turin Horse by Tarr.
Trying to remember a fade to black ever meaning so much. Throughout the film we’ve witnessed one of the bleakest existences ever put on film, as the characters endure the hardships of daily life, the mundane, the absence of joy, or flavor, or imagination. Life is drawing to a close, and at the end, as even the wind dies down and nothing is left, the light fades away and we are left, as perhaps Tarr suggests is our fate, all alone in the darkness with no consolation.
Landscape in the Mist by Angelopoulos.
Simiarly bleak, we watch the children that have occupied our concern for the film’s runtime reach their final destination—such as it is, since the ultimate goal of their search was a phantom—a lie meant to placate that eventually drove them to this end. Difficult and beautiful, and as uncompromising as the rest of the film.
Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys by Haneke.
Though a part of Haneke’s self-titled “Emotional Glaciation Trilogy” this film ends on an upbeat (pun intended, for those that have seen it). The film has focused on the difficulties of communication between people, how we misread each other, or refuse to hear. The ending, though, is a celebration of a kind of communication that is stripped down and pure, celebrated by people who cannot communicate through the means most take for granted. One of the few (only?) Haneke film to end with a note of hope.
The Bicycle Thieves by de Sica.
It was one of the first films of the Italian Neo-Realist movement, but the impact of its ending is no less poignant today. Up to that point we’ve followed the misadventures of the father and son across the town seeking a resolution that we feel should come, but it does not. This is life. It’s not going to be easy, or wrapped up tidily by the end of the show. There is no resolution, and the meaning of this for the protagonist and the realization of this for the audience is palpable.
In Bruges by McDonagh.
Another story about a redemption that does not come. The film is as funny as it is sad, and it must be difficult to walk that line tonally when making a film. A lesser film would have had the protagonist escaping with his lessons learned and his path to redemption laid out before him. Instead, his fate is as unsure as it was in the film’s beginning. What is sure, at least, is that the choices we make in life can have devastating consequences that we may never be able to escape, or repair, or overcome. C’est la vie.