So where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I made the mistake of turning to the internet to see what people thought of the ending of take shelter. What was the result?
A lot of people trying too hard to look smart. Not that it’s necessarily their fault. Years of lousy movie making have conditioned them to not only doubt their understanding of a film, but the competence of the people making it, too. This is because somewhere along the way it became uncool to just make a movie what it was. People stopped throwing in symbolism (the character’s name is Iris, and she wears white … GET IT?) to make their movies appear to have depth and started insisting the movies themselves were depth (I filmed two people wandering around the desert doing nothing … OR WAS IT REALLY NOTHING?).
People have taken to trying so hard to justify mysteries in their movies that they’ll ignore the rules the movie established for itself. For example, the question that a lot of moviegoers asked after they watcher last year’s Inception was “is he (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb) asleep or in the real world?” They asked this because they didn’t pay attention. Earlier in the movie, shortly after Ellen Page’s character of Ariadne was introduced, Cobb took her into his mind to explain the rules of dream engineering. One thing he pointed out was how disjointed dreams were and immediately asked her if she remembered walking to the cafe they were sitting at to point out that she was currently experiencing a dream.
Now, at the end of the movie, after the characters have emerged from their shared dream (after successfully inception-ing their target) what is very explicitly shown to the audience? The character of Cobb getting off the plane, going through customs & immigration, getting picked up at the airport … he didn’t suddenly find himself at home. This is done to establish that he’s definitively in reality. Yeah, so what if the credits kicked in before the top was shown falling over? The director had already told the audience what they needed to know if they were paying attention. Any discussion beyond that could only be fueled by people intentionally ignoring the information they were provided.
Take Shelter inspired similar discussion. People cooked up explanations that the ending was not about the main character’s apocalyptic visions coming true but of the family learning to share in the man’s insanity.
This of course ignores what was actually shown at the end of the movie. The daughter and mother reacted to something before her father saw it. It would be one thing if they main character saw the storm, then turned to his family who hesitantly confirmed what he was experiencing. However at that point the writer would be backpedaling the progress that had been achieved not ten minutes earlier in the film and the characters would have had no motivation to do so. In addition, the daughter was never indicated to have any idea about what her father was going through (being death, she might not even have been privy to a majority of the discussion in the storm shelter.) Which would make her the least likely of the characters (between her and the wife) to initiate such a shared hallucination.
So, like with Inception, much of the (misguided) discussion about the movie seemed to be based more on people wanting the movie to have some ending other than what was presented, in fact one that contradicted what was presented. What would motivate people to do that?
- Seven Hotly Debated Movie Questions that Totally Have Answers (from Cracked)
- Take Shelter Interview with Michael Shannon (from Electric Sheep)