This surprisingly moving video edit by Jacob T. Swinney places the first and final shots of 55 beautiful films side-by-side. We don’t typically realize how symmetrical and similar these first and final images can be, though of course the similarities are purposeful. Other times, when the two shots are strikingly different, the simple contrast depicts the journey a film has taken.
The complimentary images from Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” for example, represent an entire lifetime, beginning with young Mason looking up into the sky, and ending with college-age Mason off with a new friend, looking for a brief second directly into the camera.
Many of these first and last shots are iconic. Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: a Space Odyssey” opens with a celestial shot of the sun rising above the earth, and ends with a floating fetus. John Ford’s “The Searchers” is bookended by two open doorways through which you can see the mountainous western landscape; the final frame is especially famous, as John Wayne strides off alone into the distance.
In a great number of these first/last shots, a character starts out alone, but ends with someone else in the frame. This happens in Spike Jonze’s “Her,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love,” and David Fincher’s “Fight Club.” Each of these films’ central figures find either love or companionship. Other characters remain alone from start to finish, as in Steve McQueen’s “Shame” or Coppola’s “The Godfather: Part II.”