The Anticlimax. Definition and Examples from Film.

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Anti-climax is a disappointing or underwhelming conclusion or event that fails to meet the expectations or build-up that precedes it. Typically, you don’t want a film to be anti-climatic (implying that it sucked.) However, a screenwriter or director can deliberately use an anticlimax happening to the characters in the movie to drive the plot.

In this article, you can read more about the anticlimax in film and see some great examples of it being used as a storytelling tool.

Also, check out Climax in Film.

The Anticlimax as a Storytelling Tool

Deliberately using anticlimax in storytelling serves several purposes. Firstly, it can create surprise and subvert the audience’s expectations, adding a twist to the narrative.

This technique can also generate comedic moments by playing with the audience’s anticipation and then deflating it with an unexpected outcome.

Additionally, anticlimaxes can create a sense of irony or comment on the story’s themes or messages.

Read more on irony in film.

Examples of Anticlimax in Movies

Here are a few examples of famous movies that utilize anticlimax as part of their storytelling:

Finding Nemo (2003)

At the end of Finding Nemo, the Tank Gang (Gill, Bloat, Bubbles, Deb, Gurgle, Peach, and Jacques) finally manages to escape the tank of Philip Sherman’s dentist’s office and find their way to the sea.

But since they’re still in their bags, the happy ending of this escape subplot isn’t quite what they expected, resulting in a dry comment from Bloat (Brad Garrett): “Now what?”

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

In this comedy, the Knights of the Round Table embark on a quest for the Holy Grail.

However, when they finally reach their destination, they are arrested by modern-day police officers for the murder of a historian.

This unexpected event deflates the audience’s expectations of a grand and heroic conclusion.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

The audience follows a Sheriff’s pursuit of a ruthless killer in this crime thriller.

Towards the film’s end, the Sheriff, played by Tommy Lee Jones, narrates a dream about his father.

The dream does not provide any resolution to the main plot, leaving the audience with a feeling of anticlimax but also reflecting the film’s themes of moral decay and the inability to control events.

The Graduate (1967)

In this iconic coming-of-age film, the protagonist, Benjamin Braddock, embarks on an affair with Mrs. Robinson and eventually falls in love with her daughter, Elaine.

In the climax, Benjamin crashes Elaine’s wedding to stop her from marrying another man.

However, instead of a traditional Hollywood ending where they ride off into the sunset, the final scene shows Benjamin and Elaine sitting at the back of a bus, their expressions changing from joy to uncertainty, leaving the audience with a sense of ambiguity and anticlimax.

Closing Thoughts

These examples demonstrate how anticlimax can challenge narrative expectations, create comedic or ironic moments, and offer a different perspective on the story’s themes.

If you enjoyed this article, you should also check out this one about antagonists in movies.

Author

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  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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