“The Book of Nora,” Episode 8 – Nora Enters the Machine
The first few scenes of the finale carried enough weight to fill the entire hour. Nora saying goodbye, straight to camera; doing one final “Matt Libs” for her obituary; bidding farewell to a “great gecko” — all of these scenes not only prepped us for the emotional turmoil to come, but devastated viewers who had been fearing Nora would step into the fateful machine.
Yet the boldest shot for both Leder and Carrie Coon came when she was all alone.
“When Nora walks up the stairs to the LADR, we’re in this close shot of her as the door is closed behind her,” Leder said. “And then we cut — bam! — to a shot of Nora standing alone, naked, vulnerable, pure; just standing there. And she starts walking toward us, to the other place, with this look on her face of [knowing] where she’s going to go — to the place where her children are — with conviction, and it’s a very powerful shot to me.”
What makes it even more powerful is knowing it was the last scene Leder shot — the last scene shot for “The Leftovers.”
“The Book of Nora,” Episode 8 – Kevin Asks Nora to Dance
“Are you surprised I said that one?”
Leder has a lot of favorites from “The Leftovers” series finale, but the first shot she brought up was when Kevin offers his hand to Nora, she takes it, and he leads her onto the dance floor.
“In one shot, he walks her onto the dance floor into this beautiful two-shot on their faces, with Otis Redding singing,” Leder said. “As Nora leans into his shoulder, he sings ‘sweet dreams,’ and then the camera swings over to Kevin and he sings, ‘bad dreams.’ I did shoot it all in one [shot], and then we cut it up. But we did hold that shot for a very long time. It really spoke to this couple breaking down the walls and Nora allowing herself to feel again.”
The finale is filled with iconic moments, but the wedding is perhaps the best pairing of emotionally nuanced performances and impeccable framing. Leder’s precise, tight shots capture every key look between the couple, especially when they’re so close they can’t see each other. It’s a gorgeous, devastating moment that will have us weeping for years to come.
“The Book of Nora,” Episode 8 – The Final Shot
Leder set up the last shot of the series before she would even agree to use that house. Before anything else was filmed, Leder placed the chicken coop exactly where she wanted it — so it would appear in the background of other shots — and made sure her vision for the last look at “The Leftovers” would be everything she imagined.
“I always wanted to do a very simple wide shot,” Leder said. “The goat was out there, and he just walked out of frame; that was a happy accident.”
“This was a love story, and to me this was a happy ending shot. It was that moment of healing and love all coming together in this one wide shot. It told the entire story. They found each other again, they found their family again.”
“Before I shot anything around that house, I designed the last shot of the show,” Leder said. “It was such a privilege to direct it and to be part of the show in such a meaningful way.”
“Don’t Be Ridiculous,” Episode 2 – Dir. Keith Gordon
“It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” Episode 5 – Dir. Nicole Kassell
“The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” Episode 7 – Dir. Craig Zobel
And of course…
“G’Day Melbourne,” Episode 4 – Dir. Daniel Sackheim
“The finding of that moment with the endless tears: I know that Dan had a close-up in mind, but I don’t think anyone knew how powerful that close-up would be,” Leder said, speaking at the ATX TV Festival, about the above shot. “That’s the magic of making movies and television. Ideas and images present themselves on set. You’ve got to be present. You’ve just got to be there.”
Watch the entire final episode of “The Leftovers” for free on YouTube. The series is streaming via HBO NOW.