We’ve written previously about the enigmatic ending to the Coen brother’s 2007 film No Country For Old Men, which left many audience members unsatisfied until they revisited the film and fully grasped its themes. In a new video essay, YouTuber Entertain The Elk uses his own learned appreciation for this ending as a launching point to examine the final scene of all the Coen’s films, each of which is uniquely effective.
While the Coen’s oeuvre is an eclectic mix of genre and style, they’ve always managed to stick the landing thanks to their use of bookends and abstract symbolism. A bookend is either an audio or visual cue in the final scene that mirrors the start of the film, narratively bringing the story full circle. The music at the beginning and end of O Brother, Where Art Thou! and Sam Elliot’s narration that surrounds The Big Lebowski are perfect examples of these bookends.
But a great final scene should also tie up the film thematically, which is why the Coen’s films often end a bit abstractly or anti-climactically. After all the main plot lines have been resolved, there’s often one last scene that seems a bit out of place. Upon closer inspection, this scene is revealed to contain the emotional core of the film as a whole. It’s also a reminder that, while the story you were enjoying may have ended, these characters and this world will continue to live on.
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