400 Blows (1959) final sequence

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.

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4 thoughts on “400 Blows (1959) final sequence

  1. I agree with you that the final sequence does have its own ways of ending the film, however I think the scene before this catalyzed its impact. In the prior scene, Antoine is shown talking to a therapist, telling her all about his home life. Quite frankly, it’s worse than what the movie initially revealed. He was not only misguided, but unloved and rejected. The only people who even remotely cared about him was his grandmother and friend Renee. The ending freeze frame just emphasized how alone he was in this world.

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  2. I love your two contradicting interpretations of the final shot of 400 Blows! To me, it did not necessarily mean one thing or the other. Instead, I feel like Antoine directly challenged the audience. He looks straight at us, like he wants to ask us: “So what?” To me, his face could express happiness, sadness, disillusionment and hopefulness all at the same time. For the entire movie, we have been watching Antoine and probably judging him. I know that at times, I wanted to ask him “why do you do this? Why do you ruin everything for yourself?”. I was able to silently judge him, not feeling guilty about my frustrations with him, until he looked me in the eye and challenged me. It made me think, who am I to judge? Antoine’s story is his to tell, and his life is his to lead. He looked at me, and told me: and now go back to your own life, and leave me alone.

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  3. I liked that you said the still-frame shot is up for interpretation. He previously said he wanted to go to beach because he has never been. This foreshadowed this outcome, but once he got to the beach the audience will never know what he will do next. I thought he was going to jump into the water. I feel like once he got there he realized that was the end. It was just a beach with sand and endless water. Because the temperature was very cold there, he wasn’t able to play around and sun bath and swim, instead he stood by the water thinking about his life. However, the vast ocean can symbolize Antoine looking to the many options of his future. The ocean could have given him hope for a better life with a better relationship with his parents.

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  4. I enjoyed reading your post and too think the ending sequence of this film is substantial and truly put up for multiple interpretations. However, I personally interpreted the ending as Antoine’s realization of reality, adulthood, and the idea that you cannot run away from your problems. He finally gets to put his feet in the water and run his hands through the sand, but nothing is difference. Antoine finally reaches the goal he has been longing for and when he finally gets there we see him look at the vast beach with no joy, no dance of freedom, but rather we see him cold holding his hands in his pocket and kicking at the water. There is no substantial difference in the way Antoine approaches the beach, and I think this is what Antoine realizes. The way he looks at the camera is not with a smile or smirk, but it looks like he is shocked and has some fear in him. I think this goes to show that Antoine does not know what to do, he has nowhere to go, and is left with no plan. I think this is Antoine’s realization that he does not find liberation where he thought he would. He is truly lost as a person and still does not know how to get through life. Through this experience he finds himself in the same place that he was at the beginning of the film.

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