400 Blows (1959) final sequence
The final sequence of 400 Blows (1959) was as simple as it was complex and brought closure to the movie in a number of subtle and deliberate ways.
Throughout the film, Antoine was portrayed as a troubled and rebellious young man who stole money from his parents, a typewriter from school, defaced school property, smoked cigarettes, and cut school. He longed to be on his own without meeting the scrupulous demands of constantly being under someone else’s authority. After he was arrested for stealing a typewriter from school, he was sent to a boys reform school where he seemed to fit in and enjoy the company of other like-minded delinquents.
In the final sequence, Antoine was playing ball with the other boys in the outfield near the fence line. When the ball rolled past him, he ran after it, threw it back, turned around, slid under a loose part of the fence and ran while the authorities from the school chased him. After losing his pursuer, the camera tracks next to him until he reaches the beach where the camera pans right as he moves in front of the camera to kick around in the water. With the ocean in the background, Antione turns around and looks directly into the camera and the camera zooms in on the infamous still frame that illustrates the satisfaction on his face.
It appears that Antione’s arrival at the beach represented a pivotal moment in his life. His first real moment of true freedom could symbolize an unobstructed future of unlimited possibilities. On the other hand, it could represent the “end-of-the-line,” in the sense that he has gone as far as he could go before returning to the life where he is forced to deal with the consequences of his actions. In any case, he is momentarily free. What happens after the infamous still-frame shot is entirely up for interpretation.