#2: Clouzot’s Diaboliques and Traffaut’s 400 Blows
Ambiguity is the obscurity and uncertainty of a meaning or intention. It avoids clarity and is open to having several possible interpretations. It also focuses on perplexity resulting from mysterious or imponderable event, often of great importance or deep significance (dictionary.com). An ambiguous ending in film is when the end leaves the audience uncertain as to the nature of the final consequences. In Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, the movie leaves the viewers wondering whether the Moinet is lying or if Christina is still alive. In Francois Truffaut’s film, The 400 Blows, it concludes with a freeze frame and close up of Antoine Doniel’s face as he looks away from the ocean. In comparison both films leave people with multiple possibilities to interpret the finale. They don’t leave a clear resolution or closure for the audience. The films, The 400 Blows and Les Diaboliques have ambiguous endings, providing no resolution and leaving audiences open to many hypothetical outcomes. Ambiguity leaves us (the public) open to different possibilities. Viewers are encouraged to use their imagination and create the final sequences. They can imagine their own resolution of the movies, providing themselves closure. It leaves people guessing and questioning: what will become of the plot and characters now? It keeps them curious, constantly thinking and wondering what will happen. Ambiguous endings leave things relatively “open” for interpretation. It can also have its advantages in movies. Sometimes what remains is a more striking conclusion with the use of cinematic techniques. In the closing of The 400 Blows, the lead character Antoine escapes from the observation center. It shows him continuously on the run and not looking back. He arrives at the ocean, which is one of the places he had always wanted to go to. As the camera closes in on him, it is frozen on his face for a few seconds before the film comes to an ending. Audience is left thinking what will happen to Antoine now? Will he get caught by the guards and goes back tot he observation center? When the film concludes with a freeze frame of Antoine, viewers are left in the dark of his immediate future. It is uncertain as to how to interpret the look on his face. His expression can range from happiness and hope, escaping from the observation center to uncertainty, not knowing where to go from here. Some audiences view it as a weak ending and closure, although the freeze frame image is a strong and innovative closure device. It signals nothing more will happen in this film and the end has been reached. It is a striking, open-ended story. The final scene recalls exuberance and freedom. Truffaut uses the cinematic technique, mise-en-scene when the camera follows Antoine during his escape. He has no set destination, but his sense of liberation, of being free from parents, teachers, and other restraints, drives him forward. The ocean can be a vision of freedom, with its open skies and unhindered space. In the freeze frame, the duration of the close up exaggerates the effect. It is an abrupt halt to character development and to the viewer’s progress with the character. Another effect is to stop an image in time and place in order to provoke specific interpretations. By freezing Antoine in that particular expression as he turns away from the ocean, it shows that his potentiality of the future is high. This is a very striking shot and one of the most famous in cinema history. It wasn’t as striking to those in the United States as it was for the French. When Antoine is staring deeply into the camera, one can interpret it as therefore looking at us, the audience. In the conclusion of Les Diaboliques, the little boy Moinet is found with the same sling shot from earlier in the movie. When asked how he got it back, he claims that Christina gave it to him, which seems absurd because the...
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