July 4, 2024

Seeking closure: why open-ended movies are frustrating

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Klaudia Bacza in London, United Kingdom

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Zendaya stars as Tashi and Josh O’Connor as Patrick in director Luca Guadagnino’s 'Challengers' (2024).

Picture by: Niko Tavernise | epk.tv

Open-ended films are inherently frustrating for me.

They invite the audience to engage their imagination but offer no complete conclusion to the plot, which always leaves me dissatisfied and yearning for more.

Unlike traditional movies, which typically tie up loose ends, these films often leave many questions unanswered. While some argue that this ambiguity allows characters to leap off the screen and into our imaginations, I find it puzzling rather than enlightening.

There is an ongoing debate, especially among Gen Z, about the lasting impact of open-ended films versus those with resolutions. Some think that ambiguous endings can obscure the main point of the story, while others feel they make the movie feel more real and authentic.

In my view, it’s crucial to acknowledge the conflicted feelings evoked by such endings. Many movies are created to express a message from the director and actors to the viewers, aiming to change their perspective or offer new insights. Yet, movies that leave too many questions unanswered often result in confusion and uncertainty rather than a fresh perspective.

Passion. Tension. Match point.

Take, for instance, the recent film Challengers, a sports romance that left many viewers, including me, feeling incomplete and disappointed due to its lack of resolution.

Tashi (played by Zendaya), Art (Mike Faist), and Patrick (Josh O’Connor) star as three young professional tennis players who reconnect in a final match. The director, Luca Guadagnino, uses the first-person perspective of the tennis ball itself in the last shots of the movie. The ball goes back and forth between Art and Patrick, but the movie ends before the match is finished, so the real winner is left to the viewer’s imagination. The ambiguous ending of the love triangle led to mixed feelings and prompted many people to seek explanations and closure online.

This example illustrates how many audience members crave a sense of completion and fulfillment when investing their time and emotions into a film. As viewers connect with the characters and immerse themselves in the storyline, they anticipate a resolution that concludes the movie.

Open-ended movies are more susceptible to misinterpretation or miscommunication between the filmmaker and the audience.

The absence of a definitive ending can lead to confusion or misunderstanding about the film’s themes and messages. Some viewers might focus on one aspect while overlooking others, resulting in different interpretations of the film’s meaning. For example, in Challengers, people can interpret their own winner. Art? Patrick? Or, as some might argue, Tashi?

Ultimately, I believe that a movie experience should be both magical and gratifying. Without prior knowledge or additional research, you should be able to understand the film’s purpose and resolution by the end. The cinematic journey should guide and allow you to appreciate the beauty and artistry of filmmaking.

Without a definitive ending, a film risks resembling an extended trailer, leaving viewers frustrated and unfulfilled. From my perspective, that’s a disservice to the art of storytelling.

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Klaudia Bacza

Contributor

Krakow, Poland

Born in 2007 in Krakow, Poland, Klaudia now studies in London, England where she is interested in history, English, French, and art design. In the future, she plans to study law in the United States.

In her free time, Klaudia plays tennis and basketball and enjoys painting, travelling, and running.

She speaks Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, English, and is learning French.

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Christian Yeung

Society editor

Hong Kong | United States

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