Definition: Denouement in movies is the final resolution or outcome of the plot, where loose ends are tied up and the conflicts are resolved. It often occurs after the climax and provides closure to the audience, offering a sense of conclusion to the narrative.
You can say that the denouement is the final beat of the story or the “wrap-up.”
The different types of Denouement in Film
There are various types of denouement, each serving a different purpose in the storytelling process.
Let’s explore some of these types and provide examples from famous movies:
In this type, the story concludes with a positive outcome, bringing closure and leaving the audience satisfied.
One classic example is “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), directed by Frank Darabont. The film concludes with Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank State Penitentiary, reunion with his friend Red on a beach in Zihuatanejo, and their hopeful new beginning.
Contrary to the happy denouement, the tragic denouement presents a sad outcome, often involving the downfall or demise of the protagonist.
An iconic example of this is “Romeo + Juliet” (1996), directed by Baz Luhrmann. The film concludes with the deaths of Romeo and Juliet as their families finally reconcile but at the cost of their young love.
This type of denouement involves a surprising revelation or twist that alters the audience’s perception of the story.
“The Sixth Sense” (1999), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is a notable example. The film concludes with the revelation that the protagonist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, has been dead all along, and his interactions with a young boy, Cole, were actually with a ghost.
An open-ended denouement leaves certain aspects of the story unresolved, allowing the audience to interpret the conclusion in their way.
“Inception” (2010), directed by Christopher Nolan, is a prime example. The film concludes with a spinning top that wobbles, leaving the audience uncertain whether Cobb’s main character is still in a dream or reality.
An epilogue denouement occurs after the story’s main events, providing additional information or closure for the characters.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” (2011), directed by David Yates, features an epilogue set 19 years later, showing the main characters as adults, married with children, and sending their children off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
These are just a few examples of the different types of denouement in storytelling. Each type brings the story to a close in a unique and impactful way, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.
The Difference between Denouement and Epilogue
The denouement and the epilogue are two distinct elements commonly found in storytelling, particularly literature and theater.
Although they both provide closure to a narrative, there are some key differences between them.
- The denouement is the part of the story that directly follows the climax and resolves the main conflicts.
- The epilogue is an additional section after the denouement to provide further closure or insight into the narrative.
The Difference between Denouement and Resolution
While they are related, they serve slightly different purposes in storytelling.
- Resolution is the point where the main conflict is resolved
- Denouement is the final part of the story that provides additional explanation or clarification.
Denouement can be Explicit or Implicit.
Denouements can be categorized into two types: explicit and implicit.
Explicit denouement presents a clear resolution to the story, leaving no room for ambiguity, while implicit denouement leaves the resolution open to interpretation, allowing the audience to draw their conclusion.
In an explicit denouement, the story’s resolution is clearly stated or shown to the audience.
This outcome leaves no room for interpretation and ensures the audience understands how the story concludes.
Here are a few examples:
- “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994): In the final scene, Red travels to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where he reunites with his friend Andy on a beach.
The explicit denouement is shown through their meeting, showing that Andy successfully escaped prison and achieved his dream.
- “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003): After the climactic battle, peace is restored, and the hobbits return to their homeland, the Shire.
The explicit denouement is depicted through scenes showing the hobbits rebuilding their homes and embracing a new era of tranquility.
In an implicit denouement, the story’s resolution is not explicitly stated or shown but implied or left open to interpretation.
This type of outcome invites the audience to speculate or draw conclusions about the resolution. Here are a few examples from famous movies:
- “Inception” (2010): The movie ends with a spinning top, which previously served as a totem to determine reality. The final shot shows the top spinning, but the movie cuts to black before it reveals whether it falls or continues spinning.
The implicit denouement leaves the audience questioning the reality of the situation and sparks debates about the story’s conclusion.
- “Lost in Translation” (2003): The film concludes with a whisper shared between the two main characters, Bob and Charlotte, which is inaudible to the audience.
The implicit denouement leaves the interpretation of their whispered words open-ended, allowing viewers to speculate about their meaning and the potential future of their relationship.
The denouement in movies serves as the final resolution or outcome of the story, tying up loose ends and providing closure for the audience.
A well-written denouement reveals the characters’ ultimate fate and often leaves a lasting impression, solidifying the film’s overall impact.
Up next is Context in Film and how to write it.