Australian Cinema > endings - and openings

Best endings in Australasian feature films

I heard (but didn't see) that Evan Williams posted a list of his ten best film endings in The Australian newspaper in 2009. I'll bet none of them is from an Australasian film. So let me see if I can redress that.

Idiot Box (David Caesar, 1996) Kev (Ben Mendelsohn) commits suicide by cop. Lying on the footpath outside the bank he wasn't actually robbing, he asks his mate Mick (Jeremy Sims) through the bubbling blood: "Am I dead yet?" Cut to the static on a TV screen, cut to black. Caesar is among the top two or three writer/directors in Oz, and in 2009 I keenly anticipated his next flick, Prime Mover, which was released that year: Mendo is in that too - but it's not as good.

The Boys (Rowan Woods, 1997. There's a very long period of silence before Brett Sprague (David Wenham in his best performance ever), looking across at the girl he and his brothers are about to sexually assault and murder, mutters: "Let's get her!"

Lantana (Ray Lawrence, 2001) There are a half-dozen couples in this film, most with unresolved relationship. The film ends with the central couple, played by Anthony LaPaglia and Kerry Armstrong, dancing slowly across the screen from left to right and back. He is leaning slightly towards her, and she is leaning slightly back - but they are still dancing.

Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981) You'd expect me to mention this one. Mark Lee is dashing across no-man's land toward the Turkish machine-guns, the last man on his feet in the pointless charge. As the bullets rip into him, the screen freezes on the image. Dr George Miller calls it 'anthemic' - not really the right word, but it makes an impression.

Radiance (Rachel Perkins, 1999). For reasons I shdn't disclose, the last line is Deborah Mailman's as Nona. In fact I shdn't disclose the line either: see the damn film! And enjoy the purple Falcon burning off into the sunset, bearing three radiantly bewigged women.

Malcolm (Nadia Tass, 1986). Malcolm (Colin Friels) drives his full-sized! toy tram away down the tracks. It's Nadia Tass's lovely film, but it was her husband, David Parker, who constructed all the toys which are such an important part of this film. Rikky and Pete (Nadia Tass, 1988) also.

Mullet (David Caesar, 2001). Ben Mendelsohn again, as Eddie (his nick is 'Mullet' - for the fish, not the haircut). He comes back to his hometown, meets barmaid-with-a-heart-of-gold (Belinda McClory), drops her home, remains sitting in his car. Will he go in to join her, or leave town again? Long shot. Roll credits. Doesn't sound like much, but Caesar's timing in the cutting is excellent. (Mark Perry gets the editing credit, I shd say.)

That's only seven, so here are some good endings from lesser films.

X (Jon Hewitt, 2011) aka X - Night of Vengeance. This is quite an unpleasant film (in my opinion, in terms of its subject-matter) which is redeemed to some extent by the ending. Hanna Lawrence's character has found a protector, tho her situation is still pretty dire. She says something like, 'There is something you can do for me: make me disappear.' And the screen goes black. The end.

And here are some ...


Siam Sunset (John Polson, 1999). A loving couple are playing on their front lawn. They rest on their backs, slightly apart. He looks to the sky: what's that falling? Is it a bird? Is it ...? It's a-a-a-a-a refrigerator! fallen from a plane. It exterminates the young woman. He's now lying beside a huge fridge: she's presumably two feet underneath it, and quite a bit thinner.

Waiting (Jackie McKimmie, 1991). Noni Hazlehurst is swimming out of a pool on a country property. But why is she puffing so much? She's only gently breast-stroking. She reaches the edge and starts to emerge from the water. Omigod! She's naked. And her breasts are ginormous! Oh my dear god!! She's 8.75 months pregnant!! No special effects in this film. She really was.

Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) aka Outback (US). The opening shot is a 360 from a crane (I assume) showing ... nothing much at all—for miles and miles.

Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994). We open on a landscape of beautiful NZ landscape. The camera holds it, then pans to reveal that it's billboard advertising for NZ tourism. And then introduces main actress Rena Owen before pulling focus across the road and through a wire fence to her backyard, which is right next to a four-lane main road. OK, it's been done before and since, but in the context of the horrible things that Temuera Morrison's character, Jake the Muss, perpetrates on his family, you yearn through the whole film to be back in that idyllic landscape. It works.

Sunday Too Far Away (Ken Hannam, 1975). The opening sequence shows Foley dropping off the sleep in his FJ and rolling it. It was shot to be the ending, but like a lot of things in this iconic movie, it got changed. It's amazing that it's survived so well despite its many imperfections. [Linguistic note. When I wrote this paragraph in 2012 or not much later, I used the word 'iconic' when it still had some meaning. It's now used for every second footballer, or whatever, so let's say this film is 'significant'. It's not literally great - but it's helluva good.]

Garry Gillard | New: 1 October, 2012 | Now: 16 April, 2020