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Old 07-11-07, 09:52 PM   #1
7Keys
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Open to interpretation vs. Incoherent mess

I had a discussion with someone about movie endings that are "open to interpretation". I think a lot of movies that are "open to interpretation" are just poorly executed endings by the director/writer.

So, what do you think? Any movies you would argue the end is open to interpretation? Or others that are just poorly executed?

Hopefully my thread does not fall into the open to interpretation or incoherent mess category.
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Old 07-11-07, 09:58 PM   #2
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Easy Rider: the first example that comes to my mind for an "open to interpretation" ending, mostly revolving around one enigmatic line that Peter Fonda says near the end:
Spoiler:
"We blew it."


Do you think the ending of Mulholland Dr. is a jumbled mess? Because I find that one very well crafted by Lynch.
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Old 07-11-07, 10:05 PM   #3
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My personal favorite film of all time has an ending that can be viewed as "open to interpretation" - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Some people don't see it that way, but to me:

Spoiler:
It's up for the viewer to decide if the get together for good, or if they're doomed to repeat the entire process over and over again.


Two more like this, and two more of my favorite films, is Lost In Translation and Memento.

I can't think of any like this that I'd say is an "incoherent mess" off the top of my head, but I know that there's a ton of em.
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Old 07-11-07, 10:07 PM   #4
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One recent example I can think of is Children of Men. That was certainly not an incoherent mess. I don't believe there are many movies that are an incoherent mess, aside from Donnie Darko of course.
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Old 07-11-07, 10:49 PM   #5
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I didn't find anything incoherent in Donnie Darko, and I was one of the few people who saw it with no preconceptions, in its initial theatrical run. It was building toward that ending and earned the right to present it as so.

Same thing with David Lynch's Inland Empire. If the work is done well enough and the filmmakers are able to draw you in, no matter how paper thin the narrative, how defiantly ambiguous, how ultimately disjointed, or how expressive, the ending can fit within the themes, the style, the rhythm, of what precedes it.

One of my favorite films, by Olivier Assayas, essentially collapses upon itself at the end. Irma Vep ends with a montage that can be placed within the narrative, but also can represent the director's own expression, or can be viewed as excessive, but in all cases, it ends with a bang. And is quite fitting... again, because of what came before.

The worst, incoherent endings come from bad, incoherent films. Not just 'art' films but from the mainstream as well. I find Michael Bay films a mess, and definitely NOT open to interpretation (because everything is so overstated). And all, all of the endings I've seen of his piss me off with their transparent grandstanding. So much in fact, that I find his excess fascinating, even when I know exactly what is coming.
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Old 07-11-07, 11:07 PM   #6
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I think any David Lynch movie could be considered an incoherent mess.
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Old 07-11-07, 11:25 PM   #7
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Lynch films make sense on a few levels, so those fit in open to interpretation (Mulholland Drive was especially well crafted in a more obvious way). Another movie that was somewhat open to interpretation, imho, was Oldboy.

When I think incoherant messes, I think things like the Stepford Wives remake where they constantly switch between microchips and full on robots. Darko didn't strike me as particularly incoherant.
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Old 07-11-07, 11:39 PM   #8
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I have found that most people that label films, particularly "art" films, as "incoherent messes" tend to be unimaginative folks, with zero background in art appreciation. These are the people that insist that movies are simply "entertainment", and cannot fathom actually having to exercise some independent thought in a mere movie.

I wish that everyone who loves movies would take one or two college level film courses. There is so much more going on in so many films that flies right over the head of Joe Six Pack, just because they don't have the tools to recognize the language.
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Old 07-11-07, 11:40 PM   #9
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IMO, Donnie Darko is an incoherent mess because of the way time travel is portrayed in the film. I watched the film and enjoyed but then when I started thinking about it I almost had a migraine. It's terribly incoherent.
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Old 07-11-07, 11:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Numanoid
I have found that most people that label films, particularly "art" films, as "incoherent messes" tend to be unimaginative folks, with zero background in art appreciation. These are the people that insist that movies are simply "entertainment", and cannot fathom actually having to exercise some independent thought in a mere movie.

I wish that everyone who loves movies would take one or two college level film courses. There is so much more going on in so many films that flies right over the head of Joe Six Pack, just because they don't have the tools to recognize the language.
I agree. I took a Hitchcock film class with a prof that has written a few awesome books on everything embedded in his films. Definitely something I would recommend.
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Old 07-12-07, 12:51 AM   #11
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Donnie Darko, Sunshine = incoherant messes.

Mullholland Dr., The Fountain = open to interpretation.
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Old 07-12-07, 06:03 AM   #12
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American Psycho is probably a good example. It's always debated whether he actually did the killings or was just fucked in the head.
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Old 07-12-07, 06:39 AM   #13
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American Psycho is remarkably well crafted. So much so that many people don't even realize there's a debate about whether the killings happened, but once they learn of it, they go back and can see the movie in a whole new way. The film is also vague in that the director purposefully shoots it very blandly so as not to suggest implicit support or disgust over the actions taking place.

I find it funny that people list Mulholland Drive as a movie that's open to interpretation. That movie is telling a very specific story in an unconventional way, but there's a clear throughline in all of it. I think a better movie to list as open to interpretation is The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which features some amazing imagery that is meant to illicit a reaction from the viewer without always pointing the audience in a specific direction.

However, that's not to say that Lynch is a filmmaker devoid of interpretation. Works like Eraserhead and Lost Highway are very open-ended. Heck, even Twin Peaks has some wiggle room. But Mulholland Drive is actually very streamlined for a Lynch movie.

Another great filmmaker who leaves things for the audience to decipher is David Cronenberg. Films like Videodrome and Naked Lunch have a very Burroughs-ian atmosphere (Naked Lunch of course being an adaptation of a Burroughs book) where the concepts of good and evil practically don't exist, leaving the characters in a world without many of the signs we use to orient ourselves. And films like Crash and A History of Violence internalize these struggles with characters who try and fit into the normal world but cannot or will not fully succeed.

As for films that are incoherent messes, I would actually nominate Inland Empire as a great example. The film says nothing new and wanders literally aimlessly. I was sorely disappointed with it.
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Old 07-12-07, 07:27 AM   #14
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Pan's Labyrinth = Open to interpretation (IMO).

Spoiler:
I think all the fantasy stuff was just a coping mechanism by Ofelia, although the director claims otherwise


I thought it was an excellent film
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Old 07-12-07, 08:19 AM   #15
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I'd like to think of Donnie Dark as more of incoherent diarrhea.. and the type you don't quite make it to the bathroom to release.
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Old 07-12-07, 08:20 AM   #16
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American Psycho was a brilliant movie in my opinion & not only was the movie written in a way where you could look at it in different ways everytime you watch the film but Christian Bale put on a stellar performance as a man who looks completely normal from the outside but total lost & insane inside his mind.
Their are so many hints in the movie that lean towards that he didn't do it and it was all just some crazy disturbing but brilliant thought in his mind. Truly on of the all-time greatest "Cult Classic". It's an underated "Cult".
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Old 07-12-07, 08:25 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superboy
I think any David Lynch movie could be considered an incoherent mess.
Exception: The Straight Story


Movies with Endings Open To Interpretation:

Mystic River
Total Recall
Henry Fool (well at least until the sub-par Fay Grim came out this year)
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Old 07-12-07, 09:13 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
Exception: The Straight Story


Movies with Endings Open To Interpretation:

Mystic River
Total Recall
Henry Fool (well at least until the sub-par Fay Grim came out this year)
In Total Recall, in the director's commentary, I believe he says that
Spoiler:
it is a dream
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Old 07-12-07, 11:14 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Josh
In Total Recall, in the director's commentary, I believe he says that
Spoiler:
it is a dream
This irks me. Not your post, but the notion of outside influence upon the audience's opinion.

While Verhoven and other filmmakers certainly have their specific goals in mind when crafting a movie, the viewer should be able to let the work speak for itself. What's on the screen is on the screen and the audience's reaction to that, is valid.

Now, the viewer may come to conclusions mutually exclusive to the director's intent, and may learn so after the fact, giving subsequent viewings a different hue. But that doesn't mean that initial reaction is rendered null.

Of course, opinions change over time, as has mine regarding Total Recall (without any prodding by Verhoven). I haven't ditched that first impression, just built upon it.
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Old 07-12-07, 11:14 AM   #20
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I think David Lynch always provides great endings that are ambiguous and open to interpretation. I've yet to see Inland Empire, though.

The Thing is a good example of a perfect "open to interpret" ending. After all is said and done you still don't know who is who.
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Old 07-12-07, 11:49 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suprmallet
I find it funny that people list Mulholland Drive as a movie that's open to interpretation. That movie is telling a very specific story in an unconventional way, but there's a clear throughline in all of it. I think a better movie to list as open to interpretation is The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which features some amazing imagery that is meant to illicit a reaction from the viewer without always pointing the audience in a specific direction.
.
I think Mulholland Drive leaves itself open to some interpretation, less about events more of when they happened. I just recently saw The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and I tend to agree with your comment..

Oh and, damn good movie.
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Old 07-12-07, 12:02 PM   #22
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Re: Verhoven's Commentary on Total Recall

Verhoven may be the director, but he's NOT the writer...so it's just his interpretation of the story. Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon would better be able to stake claim to what the ending really meant. Or even Philip K. Dick, if someone wants to go dig him up.
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Old 07-12-07, 12:06 PM   #23
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I think Memento is open to interpretation. I need to watch this again, but I have always had the feeling the he might in fact be Sammy Jenkins
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Old 07-12-07, 12:08 PM   #24
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Total Recall

I wonder what would have happened if..........................

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Recall

Dino De Laurentiis was originally listed as the producer, and between 1983 and in 1984 David Cronenberg was attached to direct with studios in Rome and locations in North Africa. According to Cronenberg every major director had looked at the project but fell out with Shusett who wanted a pure action adventure, described as "Raiders of the Lost Ark on Mars." Cronenberg quit the production after writing 12 screenplay drafts that were all rejected by De Laurentiis. When the adaptation of Dune flopped at the box office, De Laurentiis similarly lost enthusiasm for the project.
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Old 07-12-07, 12:14 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suprmallet
I find it funny that people list Mulholland Drive as a movie that's open to interpretation. That movie is telling a very specific story in an unconventional way, but there's a clear throughline in all of it. Mulholland Drive is actually very streamlined for a Lynch movie.
Maybe you're just amused that they think Mulholland Dr. is crazy when it's his most mainstream work, but in terms of being "open to interpretation" there is also this site: http://www.mulholland-drive.net/studies/theories.htm

Some of them are definitely hokey and require more of a backwards, inverted stretch than should really be necessary in figuring out a film, but some of the others make points that work without too much effort.
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