March 16, 2018

'First and Final Frames' Is Back to Show Us the Power of Bookending Films

Ready for round three of "First and Final Frames?"

A few years back, video essayist Jacob T. Swinney captured our attention in a big way with a simple video that juxtaposed the first frames of a film with the last, offering little more than gentle music to pair with the side-by-side images. Well, after 2 1/2 years, he's back with the third installment of his popular "First and Final Frames" series, complete with some of the best films of the year, to give us the chance to explore, once again, the way films are bookended and what can be learned from it.

What can a supercut like this teach us about filmmaking? Well, potentially a lot. Some of these examples reveal how the first frame mirrors the final frame, like in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, indicating that, perhaps, the "end" is just like the "beginning" or that the hero's journey has come full circle. Other examples, like in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, reveal a stark contrast that shows the audience how much the protagonist's circumstances have changed. Still, others reveal nothing at all, at least not intentionally.

It's truly interesting to see how filmmakers begin and end their films, especially because, as Swinney's supercut demonstrates, they often use it as an opportunity to communicate the themes of their narrative, reveal the growth or decline of their protagonist, or, as Swinney points out, to "communicate their entire story" in just two single frames that appear at opposite ends of the film. 

Here's the list of all 78 films that appear in the supercut:

  • The Virgin Suicides
  • Mudbound
  • A Monster Calls
  • Prisoners
  • Selma
  • Lincoln
  • George Washington
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Shape of Water
  • E.T.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dunkirk
  • Sicario
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Jarhead
  • I Saw the Devil
  • Halloween
  • Poltergeist
  • Get Out
  • The Witch
  • It Comes at Night
  • Krisha
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Mother!
  • The Babadook
  • Arrival
  • The Descendants
  • Other People
  • Mustang
  • Lady Bird
  • Paterson
  • Hendry Gamble's Birthday Party
  • It's Only the End of the WOrld
  • Knight of Cups
  • The Immigrant
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Across the Universe
  • Undertow
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • Me and Early and the Dying Girl
  • Adventureland
  • Jackie
  • Upstream Color
  • On Body and Soul
  • Daughters of the Dust
  • Touki Bouki
  • Amistad
  • Empire of the Sun
  • The Hours
  • The Better Angels
  • Song to Song
  • A Ghost Story
  • Crimson Peak
  • The Revenant
  • Wind River
  • Meek's Cutoff
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Marie Antoinette
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Breathless
  • Killer of Sheep
  • American Honey
  • Fish Tank
  • The Florida Project
  • Spring Breakers
  • Moonlight
  • Pariah
  • Creed
  • The Wrestler
  • Looper
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Alien: Covenant
  • Brazil
  • Holy Motors
  • Logan
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Silence
  • The Godfather: Part III

If you haven't had the pleasure of viewing the other videos in Swinney's series, here is Part I and II.

What did you learn from Swinney's supercut? Let us know down in the comments.      

Your Comment

3 Comments

It's a sort of summary if you will. It can represent progress, stagnation, or a worsened state. Like the writer of the article says, they are bookends, a beginning and an end. Sometimes the filmmaker will put the ending at the beginning and the beginning at the end but either way, it's a sort of micro summary. A summary of where they were and where they are now. (that is, in the timeline of the film) It can be literal or it can be subtle and metaphoric. Or perhaps a little of both.

March 18, 2018 at 9:46AM, Edited March 18, 9:48AM

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Full Name
159

Full Name...I like that

March 18, 2018 at 12:58PM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
905

These are great, poetic visions into what a film may be about. More than that, they show that there are no rules to obide by, just some sort of coherence between beginning and end. It reminds me that the intention one bestows upon the intricacies can reinforce a film as a whole.

March 18, 2018 at 1:08PM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
905