I watch movies once and I’ll wait for them. Four years after Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was adapted to film, I have finally seen it. I’ve waited longer for other movies.
The movie was right up my alley; asking more questions than it provided answers. I’ve gleefully read some exuberant analyses of the ending, that have been floating around the ether for four years or so.
This was nearly a perfect movie. I’m reminded of Terry Gilliam’s comments regarding 2001: A Space Odyssey: “2001 had an ending. I don’t know what it means…I have to think about it. I have to work. And it opens up all sorts of possibilities and probably the next person I speak to has a different idea of what that ending means.” Oblique endings are extremely satisfying to me. They speak to real life more directly than any ‘happily ever after’ could.
My problem with story’s endings is deep and I really just need to sit down and hash it out one day. I can summarize it, maybe: All stories reflect the story of Christ. That’s the point of this blog. We don’t know how the story – we don’t know if the story – of Christ has an ending. It doesn’t. He’s immortal. We don’t know how the story of His work of salvation will end. We have a nice climax on the Cross, but we’re promised a lot more action to come. So if the stories of mankind reflect the story of Christ and we don’t know how the story of Christ ends, what do mankind’s endings look like?
Of the possible endings, the mysterious one best suits my worldview. I don’t know what the new creation will be like. I don’t know what my work will be like. I don’t know how much of my current understanding of who I am and what life is will continue on into that next world. It won’t be horrible, but it might be terrifying. It won’t be dangerous, but it might be painful. And I don’t know what events have yet to transpire to get us from here to there.
One theme that’s appropriately common to most endings is the new world. The new world, or the new life, of the characters can be good or bad. But the point of every story is that this part of existence needs to be told because things were one way before and they’re another way after.
A story could end on a wedding, which explicitly indicates a new way of life for characters, or it could end more subtly. A new way of thinking, after the death of someone close or the perseverance through something hard, can be suggested at the end of a movie. “After all, tomorrow is another day.” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “I’ll be right here.” “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?” Even Leia’s final comments tie up the love triangle and hint at the possibilities: “It’s not like that at all. He’s my brother.”
These all indicate a larger world than the story they’re inside of. There’s more to come. There’s more here. Keep watching the skies.
Even the tidiest endings suggest a bigger world than the story can contain. The messier endings indicate a world infinitely bigger than the story. Even the author can’t conceive of this world’s scope. Endings of this type are much more sympathetic to my worldview. The implications of Christ’s work, not to mention the stuff He’s done that we don’t even know about yet, are beyond our understanding.
The mysterious ending of The Road indicates that the world of Man and Boy is much stranger and larger than their journey.
One thing that this movie, and its bizarre ending, accomplish is to make the viewer think. Not many movies can do this.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview with McCarthy:
I have the same letter from about six different people. One from Australia, one from Germany, one from England, but they all said the same thing. They said, “I started reading your book after dinner and I finished it 3:45 the next morning, and I got up and went upstairs and I got my kids up and I just sat there in the bed and held them.”
Any story that can inspire that reaction is worthy of our species’ narrative heritage. Let’s keep The Road.