America is known for putting out some great movies whether they be Hollywood blockbusters, Disney classics, or independent films. Going to the movies is a great pastime, a nice way to escape, laugh at nothing for a couple hours, maybe learn a lesson or two. But one thing that almost all American films have in common is a happy ending. The guy gets the girl, the hero defeats the villain, the lesson is learned. Even our tragedies leave the audience feeling hopeful due to some redeeming factor just after everything else falls apart. But the fact is that happy endings are unique to American film and cinema.
That’s not to say that foreign films never have happy endings. But if you do watch foreign films, you’ll find that many of them have endings that are just downright depressing. Antonio Ricci disgraces himself in front of his son and realizes that he will not be able to feed his family. Ju Dou burns herself alive after her son kills her lover. Michel gets shot after being sold out by the woman carrying his child. None of these endings offer any redemption for anyone. There is no hope at the end, no second chance, no lesson learned.
And the fact is that these are great movies. Two of the three movies I just mentioned are in the British Film Institute’s list of 50 greatest films. But why doesn’t America put films out like this? Why are we afraid of genuinely sad endings?
America was built on the hope of a better tomorrow. If you just work hard enough, you can achieve all of your dreams, you can build a good life for yourself and your loved ones. The land of hope and opportunity. And don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of that.I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to clear my own path, follow my dreams, and make a good life for myself. But this is an American ideal and not all countries share it.
The appeal of foreign films like "Bicycle Thieves," "Ju Dou" and "Breathless" is that they reflect life. Sometimes, a lot of times, in fact, life can be pretty depressing. People die and there is no lesson learned. People betray their loved ones and act selfishly, and there is no forgiveness for them. People can’t always get what they need, much less what they want. Awful things happen and there isn’t always a reason for them. Americans don’t want to believe that.
So few of us know what it is to genuinely feel want. We’ve never experienced what it’s like to have our town bombed. We’ve never experienced what it’s like to live under a dictatorship. Most of us can say that we’ve always have food in our refrigerator and clothes on our backs. Of course, we have problems in our government. Of course, there is want and need in America. Of course, so many of us don’t feel safe, especially with the state our country is in. But we want to believe that we can fix these things if we just try hard enough, and that shows in our films.We always triumph in our films. Good overcomes evil. But that isn’t always the case in our world and this seems to be something that foreign films articulate especially well.