Watch: The First & Final Frames Side-by-Side - What Can We Learn?

March 19, 2015
Source: Vimeo

The First & Final Frames

Filmmakers are very crafty storytellers. The best ones know how to use the visual medium known as cinema to not only tell a story, but make us feel emotions of all kinds, and empathize with characters and people we have never met before. Filmmakers are also adept enough to link themes and patterns in the story through visual cues. In this video essay from Jacob T. Swinney titled First and Final Frames, he shows us how important the opening and closing shots are in every movie. At first you may think they have no connection, but it'll really hit you when you see the Gone Girl moment and it builds from there. This montage of over 50 films, showing the opening/closing shots side-by-side, also features the music "Any Other Name" by Thomas Newman from the American Beauty soundtrack. It's much more mesmerizing than I was expecting.

Thanks to @markdearman on Twitter for the tip. Full introduction by Jacob T. Swinney from Vimeo: What can we learn by examining only the first and final shot of a film? This video plays the opening and closing shots of 55 films side-by-side. Some of the opening shots are strikingly similar to the final shots, while others are vastly different--both serving a purpose in communicating various themes. Some show progress, some show decline, and some are simply impactful images used to begin and end a film. You can find the full list of films in the Vimeo description. Some of my favorite shots in this: Black Swan, Dr. Strangelove, The Master, Gone Girl, Children of Men, Melancholia, Boyhood and There Will Be Blood. As usual, after watching this footage all I want to do is spend this weekend watching all of these films again. Your favorites?

Find more posts: Discuss, To Watch, Video Essays



Great idea. Always loved that music. You're right about the Gone Girl shots, they really stand out. Very memorable, probably the most memorable in the video for me. Even though the movie Open Grave wasn't that good, I remember the opening and closing shots in it are great. The opening is a dark close up of eyes staring at the screen that don't move for a long time. It looks like a dead person's eyes then sudden the eye lids twitch and blink. And the ending is a God's eye view of a sea of dead bodies on the ground. The higher it rises into the sky you see more and more bodies come into view and it continues to rise until you can barely make out what you're looking at.

NathanDewey on Mar 19, 2015


Cool. Techniques!!~

DAVIDPD on Mar 20, 2015


I seriously don't get how this guy gets so much coverage on his videos. "Look I can show the opening and ending side-by-side and add dramatic music, I must be super-duper talented!" I guess at least this is better than his last video showing a montage of *gasp* Aronofsky tracking shots.

Suzy on Mar 20, 2015


It's about the thought and it pays tribute to the eye of the directors behind the films.

Nick on Mar 20, 2015


It's just the fact that he put the time and effort in to presenting this with over 50 films, high def footage, good music, it all flows together very nicely. Good work like this often gets highlighted...

Alex Billington on Mar 20, 2015


I wish there was a full list. Some of those movies look really good, but if you don't know them how can you seek them out?

DavideCoppola on Mar 20, 2015


There IS a list. I mentioned that it's in the Vimeo description. Click here, scroll down below the video, and click "Read More": https://vimeo.com/122378469#comment

Alex Billington on Mar 20, 2015


worth its time

Etienne Martin on Mar 21, 2015


Love this.

liyanc on Mar 22, 2015

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