MovieChat Forums > First Reformed (2017) Discussion > The Ending (Major Spoiler)

The Ending (Major Spoiler)


When Mary comes in and sees Toller wrapped in barbed wire, and they race together to embrace and kiss—is this meant to be a fantasy in Toller's mind as he dies? The door was locked and Cedric couldn't get in, so there's no way Mary could have gotten in either...right?

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That's my impression, but it's deliberately ambiguous. In any case, I think what's important here is the dialectic of despair and hope Toller talks about toward the beginning of the film, how both are necessary components of life. This is Toller at the deepest depths of his despair, but the vision of Mary - whether "real" or not - represents a hope in human connection, in love, that can override or at least neutralize it. He seems to have reached some kind of salvation by this point, even if he's killed himself (as I'm inclined to think). Because he *didn't* kill anyone else as he had planned. His self-mutilation/destruction acts as self-abnegation and expiation, as well as the preservation (creation) of life (represented by Mary's unborn child).

It's a similar ending in many ways to Dreyer's "Ordet," which is one of many touchstones for Schrader, but less explicitly miraculous.

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I agree with the other reply that it was ambiguous. Mary passionately kissing him was a fantasy because she didn't react at all to the barbed wire. But, I'm not sure if it's Toller's fantasy as he's dying, or if he didn't kill himself and then slipped into this fantasy while alive. He is clearly shown dropping the glass of Drano that he had poured, so it could be that he's sitting there alive, in pain from the barbed wire and fantasizing. Or, it could be that dropping the glass of Drano was part of the fantasy and that he did kill himself. The way the film ends by cutting to black made me think that he did most likely commit suicide.

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Maybe it's me interpreting an allegorical scene too literally, but I assumed the barbed wire alone would kill him, especially if he left it on him.

And yes, the way the scene/film ends is telling. Not only does it smash-cut to black, it does so in the middle of one of the song's lyrics, which is unexpected and unsettling. I also thought Esther's rendition was creepily dissonant: it is clearly not the actress singing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and the way she performs it with that robotic, impassive look on her face adds counterpoint to the dulcet vocals. All of this is to say that the ending contains a distinct disharmony that makes it read as neither fully despondent nor hopeful.

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I think the barbed wire might take a long time to be fatal, though. It took a while for crucified people to die on the cross. If the cut to black represented Toller dying in the time frame presented, then my interpretation would be that he drank the Drano. It's possible that he didn't drink it and the cut to black represents him slipping into unconsciousness after fantasizing about Mary. For the purposes of Schrader's story, I guess it doesn't really matter.

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Such thoughtful analysis, thank you. I felt the same but I wouldn't be able to write it as well as you both have.

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Agreed.

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I got out of this what Cathexis and MrPurple did. MrPurple addresses my thoughts also about dropping the glass of Drano(Liquid Plumber?) but ultimately I thought this was his fantasy in the throes of dying. I do not, however, believe one can die from barbed wire. He would have been discovered by the time that could possibly happen.

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Maybe I'm being too visual but before Mary "walked in" Toller's white robe depicted blood stains front and back. In the scene where they hugged the robe was spotless. That's why I think it was his dream. Again, realistically Cedric's character could not enter the locked doors. How could she without the sound of breaking glass? Just my opinion....

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Yes, I would like to watch it again, but in my recollection his robe actually changes into a shirt during the camera revolution.

As to how she got in - maybe she's an angel?

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[deleted]

"When he's pouring the liquor shot glass of Drano, you can see that the barbed wire has been removed"

And you came to that conclusion, how? I can still see the bulges in the robe caused by the barb wire underneath.

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Because at the 1:47:59 mark you can see through the robe (side profile when he's looking out the door and drops the cup filled with drano), and a few seconds later when she kisses him, the robe is tight across his back, no barb wire bulges (and there was a lot of barb wire to begin with), the robe is flat across his back.

The director may very well have intended for the audience to believe Toller was wearing the barb wire under his robe for the entire sequence, kissing included, that was what was implied (shot of Toller barbing himself bloody, flip back to church event, then flip back to Toller buttoning his robe), but the kissing shot, the barbed wire was gone, when she pressed firmly down on his back and held him, no bulging barb, no blood, flat robe across back.

Maybe they filmed the scene with the wires on and it didn't look right, or it physically hurt Mr. Hawke to wear the barb wire for any length of time, and they filmed the kiss without the wires.

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Sorry, don't see it. Scoured the scene and at no time can you see beyond the robe. The bulges in the robe are always visible in the front, all the way up to the kiss. Since there should be more blood on the robe, I took it as a Goof or just part of the fantasy. If one believes it was a fantasy.

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the whole third act was in his mind, not real;

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"The door was locked and Cedric couldn't get in, so there's no way Mary could have gotten in either...right?"

She enters through a different door. It may still be fantasy, but the door being locked for Cedric is irrelevant.

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