The final scene

 The final scene

A final scene has to be something that wraps up your films plot in a neat and engaging way. So many times, a film can be a thrilling ride from the beginning to the middle, but trail off into something forgettable towards the end. In this post, we discuss how to get the right chemistry when creating your final scene.

The final scene in a nutshell

Morgan Baila, over at Refinery29, aptly describes the very essence of a final scene: “The first scene of a movie is the hook. It reels you in and convinces you to dedicate the next one, two, or even three hours of your life to going down the rabbit hole of the director's imagined world.

But arguably more memorable is the final scene of a movie. It's the last impression you have and can leave you with a lingering feeling of wanting more. And it can completely change your viewing experience. It can also be the best scene of a movie for that very reason.”

A sense of longing

Aside from giving your audience a great time, a sense of longing is what you want to leave them with. In the final frames, many filmmakers explore creating frames that are representational of the journey that was just undertaken by the protagonist, this is incredibly impactful on the emotions. Recent blockbusters, such as ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Before Sunset’ have done this.

Other ways filmmakers create a sense of longing in the final scene is to clarify how a character has significantly changed since the beginning of the film, giving audiences a sense of wanting to know what happens to them next, such as in ‘Inside Llewelyn Bowen’.

Nurture a final scene

A grand finale needs to be nurtured, rushing it will only result in it looking clumsy, and leaving too many questions unanswered. Your final scene needs to have some meaning, it needs to justify to the audience that their time spent watching your work has been worthwhile, so think carefully and build up to that final scene in a way that keeps them gripped.

 The end

The importance of imagery

As a filmmaker, you’ll know how important imagery is, the power of an image can speak volumes, even when no dialogue between characters is actually happening. A good way to get some inspiration for this is watching the first and final scenes of a film, see how they connect and what emotional impact they create.

Over at Vimeo, video essayist and prolific supercut artist Jacob T. Swinney has created a very cool video in which he has cut the first and final scenes of films together, showing them side-by-side. In this video you’re able to see first hand what the filmmakers were trying to portray at each ends of their films.

Writing in No Film School, Robert Hardy has dissected this video, and explains some of the key methods used by the filmmakers to create such perfection:

“Though a good portion of these are simply images of the beginning and end of a character's journey — good examples of this would be the Jim Jarmusch classic Dead Man or the stunningly beautiful Ida — quite a few of the films in this cut start off and end with the same image, or one that shares some key similarities. This technique, known as bookending, is a clever storytelling trick, in that it forces the audience to examine how their perception of the two images has changed given the context of the rest of the film. It's also an effective technique for neatly wrapping up a film and bringing a sense of finality to the audience. It's akin to putting a bow on top of the package. Some strong examples of this from the supercut are David Lynch's understated masterpiece The Elephant Man and the Gus Van Sant biopic Milk.”