English 2 Essay, Research Paper
Often the most meaningful and revealing statement in a text tends to be its final statement, either concluding the entire story or simply closing the narrative. The same can be said of a film s final image, which can leave the audience suspicious of the film s ending, questioning whether the story has come to a complete conclusion or if the narrative has paused for a while, leaving room for a sequel. I plan to examine the parting sentence of two texts, Emily Bronte s Wuthering Heights and Robert Louis Stevenson s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in comparison with the final image of two films, Francis Ford Coppala s Apocalypse Now and Orson Welles Citizen Kane. My intention is to discover the verbal and visual ways in which a narrative closure is achieved and if the narrative has truly come to an end or if it has simply finished for the time being.
The final statement in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde perfectly coincides with the final image in Citizen Kane. The statement is as follows:
Here, then, as I lay down the pen, and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.
In Citizen Kane s final shot, a reversal of the film’s opening images, a dissolve shows the exterior of the Kane’s palatial mansion at dusk, panning up with the black smoke of his burning possessions pouring from the chimney of his palace and filling the sky. The smoke of Kane’s youth, his sled, disappears into the night sky. The camera pans down the chain-link fence where the sign “No Trespassing” is visible again as it was at the film’s start. The film fades out on the “K” of the crest of the Kane estate. The film s shot of a No Trespassing sign symbolizes the fact that Kane was a man of solitude and grief, which is represented in the text s statement of the end of an unhappy man s narration. As Utterson narrated Dr. Jekyll s story, Kane s is narrated by a number of characters. Utterson s statement also represents a complete closure to the narration of Dr. Jekyll since he states as I lay down the pen I bring the life of that unhappy Dr. Jekyll to an end. The final image in Citizen Kane implies the same sense of a complete closure in the narrative, since the camera is panning down the side of the chain-linked fence. Since the film opens with a shot of the camera panning up the side of the fence, it implies that we are climbing over it into the narration of Kane. For the camera to be panning down it implies that we are climbing down it and out of the narration of Kane permanently since the final shot fades to black.
The final statement in Wuthering Heights is strongly correlated to the final shot of Apocalypse Now. The text s final statement is as follows:
I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and
harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
In Apocalypse Now s final shot, after the departure of Willard and Johnson from the jungle, the camera focuses on the dark river at night while a superimposition of a statue s head is imposed. Then, half of this statue s head is superimposed by a half of Willard s face, while yet another superimposition takes place as helicopters are seen flying over a jungle after dropping a napalm bomb. This is all concluded with a fade to black. When Lockwood states how he lingered around them, under that benign sky he creates an equivalence to the superimposition of Willard overlooking the jungle. Despite Willard s departure from the jungle, his mind still remains there, observing the madness from a distance although he will forever be a part of it. Another example of the correlation between the two narratives is when Lockwood states, [I] wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. This is presented in the final shot of the film with the superimposition of a statue, which is representative of Willard and the jungle within him, forever quiet and slumbering since his journey into madness has now concluded. Since the film and text ends with an image of quiet slumbers for sleepers, it can be concluded that both of these narratives have come to an end.