The video First and Final Frames by Jacob T. Swinney juxtapose, as the title implies, the first and final frames of a film. In the myriad of films presented in the video, some of the pairs of shots create an, even more, sense of completion. This sense of wholeness gives the film even more newfound meaning. Analyzing this juxtaposition further suggests the need to focus on the spatial relationship that is created between the first and final shots. This spatiality removes the information between the beginning and end of the film. In doing so, a question arises pertaining to the information’s absence in between these two shots: how does this absence affect the film’s overall meaning? It would only make sense to talk about the films that I recognized in the video; otherwise, my own conclusions would not make sense if I did not see the entire film. This does leave room for a poetic sense of not watching the entire film and relying rather on the two given shots. This creates a poetic style that gives a different meaning to such films presented in the video.
An initial response to one of the pair of frames centers around how connected—if even—the two frames are with each other. For instance, the juxtaposition between the initial shot of No Country For Old Men centers around the idea of the Western, the genre’s ability to capture story-telling through the use of landscape shots. Here, the first shot demonstrates this. The dim landscape of the desert suggests a sense of isolation, an in-betweenness of day and night. Adding to this, the second shot of Sheriff Ed bell presents him during his final conversation with his wife. Here, he is reflecting on several dreams he had, almost giving an insight into the past. Thus, when juxtaposed together, the shots suggest a sense of yearning for the past yet knowing the inevitable ending of a certain feeling. This certain feeling centers itself around the Sheriff’s inability to capture the criminal-at-large, Anton Chigurh. But a closer look at the Sheriff’s relationship with the shot of landscape also suggests the desire to keep the mysteries of his life concealed. It would have made more sense if his final dialogue consisted of a reflection towards his mistakes; however, this would have revealed far too much information. To an extent, the landscape shot explains this sentiment: some things in life are better left unexplored.
Continuing this idea of concealing and revealing information acts as a way in which the juxtaposition of the shots can function. In Birdman, the initial shot shows the imagined superhero of Birman as it flies through the sky. In the second shot, Sam, Birdman’s daughter, looks up at the sky. Situated next to each other, these two shots act in this way: the initial shot reveals what the final shot decides to conceal. In this function, the juxtaposition suggests that Sam is finally seeing what the audience has been seeing all along. By the end, one collects enough information to understand Birdman’s mental suffering; however, once Sam looks up at the sky in the final shot, the viewer begins to doubt these facts: have we the viewer been tricked as well into not believing that which we have been watching all along. Perhaps, this juxtaposition further evokes a sense of understanding about the film.
Another great example of this wholeness can be seen in the juxtaposition of Black Swan. In the first shot, Nina Sayers, the protagonist, dances on the stage. In the second shot, Nina has finally achieved what she has been longed for achieving throughout the entire film. Here, she lays down after having fallen down. When paired together, Nina’s own achievement presents her in the overly lit stage. In contrast, the first shot shows her performing in a dark stage. This could be read as her success hiding in the darkness of the stage. This then suggests that in order for her to achieve her success, her success must exist in the public eye—the stage. The stage then acts as a duality of her success: on one hand, the stage offers her the dream of landing the top role in the ballet show; on the other hand, she achieves this success through self-destruction. Thus, the stage mediates her success, even if it means that she will not live long enough to experience it.
The juxtaposition of these various pairs of shots, then, offers new insight into understanding these films. It is interesting to note that in not watching some of these films, one can take these pairs of shots as juxtaposing in a poetic way. In this sense, the clear lack of information allows the reader to create an even more open-ended meaning to such pairings. This, I believe, creates another layer of meaning that one may not think about if one knows too much about the film.