As the whale said to the herring, You call that a fin?
Movies and books seem not to end anymore; they just stop. Maybe it’s the same reason poetry doesn’t rhyme….because life doesn’t either and it keeps going on.
When asked to describe his style John Coltrane said he starts in the middle of a sentence and works his way in both directions at once. I sort of get that.
Irresolution is all the rage. The reader or viewer is left to imagine the possibility of multiple endings. The faint of heart who can’t handle the maelstrom of being deposited in that land of uncertainty can always turn to the comfort of a football game which demands a finality in sudden death overtime.
In defense of endings what would a joke be without a punchline? Two favorites that come to mind are, So where’s the toast? and My wife is from Minsk. (For 11 cents I'll tell you the rest of it.)
The pendulum swings between art and artifice. Lovers of classical forms such as opera, 19th century literature and deathbed scenes in movies are comfortable with artifice. Be it happily ever after or when the bad guy falls from the rafters in an abandoned warehouse on the other side of town.
My preference swings back and forth. I like a minor key, understated epiphany. No grandiosity. Just an aha. I’ve been conditioned by stories that constantly ask…and then what. Samuel Clemens has Huck Finn’s last sentence, But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead the rest. Because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it. I’ve been there before. This strikes me as both conclusive yet open as can be.
Fitzgerald told his tale of Gatsby and ended it perfectly with, So we beat on, boats against the current born back ceaselessly into the past. Of course this becomes more profound as one has a past to reference. When you’re 18 it doesn’t work so well.
The indifference to conventional endings not only subordinates a wrapping up of conflict but also shows an indifference to plot itself. A recently watched Italian film, The Dinner, ends with a screeching car off camera and then the screen goes black. We are left to write our own finale or better yet return to explore the beginning and middle of the narrative to feel the impact of what was intended.
Oh Mama, can this really be the end / To be stuck inside of Mobile / With the Memphis blues again. (Bob Dylan) or as Herman Mankiewicz put it, when he was in New York, Oh, to be back in Hollywood, wishing I was back in New York.
Maybe that is our lot, having been expelled from the garden, always a bit out of place longing for home. The story is without end. But the real point I want to make is…..