Though the cinema can hardly be said to have innovated it, there is one narrative device which has become so associated with its mode of storytelling that it is rarely mentioned without adding the word ‘Hollywood’ as a prefix: the happy ending.
Although not all films from all times and places have pursued the happy ending as aggressively as classical Hollywood cinema, it is nevertheless the case that a failure to offer one is unusual enough that it may be that film’s biggest talking-point (think of Chinatown, or No Country for Old Men). And if we can agree that movies do have influence on us, who’s to say what the cultural impact has been of such an avalanche of happy endings?
Though not straight-forwardly ‘happy’, and in fact somewhat ambiguous, the ending to Beau Travail is nonetheless flat-out glorious. Considered in isolation, it’s already pretty wonderful – a mesmerising, elating jolt of energy. But it achieves its full resonance is as a conclusion (and contrast) to, all that’s gone before – namely a languid study of jealousy and repressed desire set in the tense, tightly-disciplined world of the French Foreign Legion in remote Djibouti. Unforgettable.
France 1999 Dir Claire Denis 93 min