Wait – it just ends this way – no moral to this story?
Can a movie end without showing the audience which “righteous path” to follow? Believe it or not, it does happen – some movies DO end on an “immorally ever after” note…
As audiences we generally expect a neatly wrapped, bow-tied moral lesson to be served with each and every cinematic helping we consume – but sometimes a movie just doesn’t deliver that warm, fuzzy message that will help us sleep better at night. Not all movies are intended to help us look in the mirror and affirm how wonderful we are as human beings; some movies want us to see that dichotomy and morality are not so easily divided – these movies are intended to challenge us to think rather than accept. Here is a list of a few oddities that break free of moral conventions – movies where demonstrating a generally accepted moral resolution was probably NOT the point of the exercise:
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
First up – Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel. Set in a futuristic world where kids are up to much more than getting drunk and vandalizing property. Alex, the protagonist expertly played by a young Malcom Macdowell – commits both rape and murder, but yet, during the nearly two and a half hour running time, we somehow come to feel sorry for him. By the end of the film, after a botched moral “rehabilitation” and an unsuccessful “reentry” into society – the audience is amused and relieved – rather than morally indignant – when Alex is finally restored to his true nature and immoral ways.
Same Time Next Year (1978)
Based upon the stage play of the same name, the 1978 film presents a familiar moral problem – cheating spouses. Adultery has been the subject of many Hollywood films – but most do not condone it in the way that this film does. Two happily married adults meet on the same weekend each year to carry on an affair that lasts decades. The couple shares a secret passionate love affair and grow old together from afar – even celebrating “anniversaries”. During the film the audience waits for the inevitable moment when the affair will be exposed or come to its painful end – but that moment never comes. The movie ends with the pair in bed, pledging to continue their annual weekends together until the day they die. An odd film in a sea of movies that deliver the direst consequences for cheaters, Same Time Next Year epitomizes “immorally ever after” by focusing on (and continuing) the relationship rather than pointing out how “immoral” their affair is. Click on the image below to be directed to TCM classics for the movie trailer.
Straw Dogs (1971 and 2011)
Straw Dogs operates inside of a moral vacuum – good people get a free pass to do really bad things because violence as a defensive reaction to violence – is completely acceptable in this movie. A man defends his wife and his home by brutally assaulting the men who threaten them. The isolation and terror this film incites is not easy to watch. Whether viewing the 2011 remake with James Marsden or the 1971 original with Dustin Hoffman – you will ultimately question how moral you would be – if you were in either man’s shoes.
Something Borrowed (2011)
In this movie we follow mild mannered Rachel as she sleeps around with her annoying best friend Darcy’s fiancée Dex. We are directed to think this affair is not immoral because Rachel “saw him first” – and beyond that – because Rachel is simply a better person than Darcy is. In the end, the film wraps with Rachel getting her man and the engagement between Dex and Darcy broken – an ending definitely lacking in any sort of traditional moral direction. To further drive home the moral-less point of this film, the movie’s tagline was “Sometimes the best things in life are borrowed”.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Horror films are pretty much tailor made for moral lessons – it is often the characters who openly commit “sins” who get the killer’s “axe” first. Often the young, innocent, virginal character is the only to survive the psychotic killer’s rampage. Murders in slasher flicks are usually pretty grisly and sometimes even fit the perceived “crime” in some way. However, Rob Zombie’s 2003 exploitation horror flick really has no resolution and there is no moral message – it is carnage, depravity and gore without any compass at all, and may very well be the closest fiction has ever come to an on-screen depiction of what hell may actually be like…
Did I miss any other movies that are set for an immoral “ever after”? Please feel free to post a comment below!