The Charm of the Open Endings

         Many times in stories or novels, we find that the author leaves us with an ending that opens up questions about the conclusion of the story. Many people find this to be a negative trait of writing, while others find it interesting to tie in their own endings to the story. We also find this to be just as evident in film as well. Many times a director or writer will leave the ending open for the audience to come up with their own ending. It then becomes very interesting to compare a piece of fiction with its film adaptation when both endings leave the audience filling in the blanks.

         One such example of this is found in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, which is the story based on Greek legend that talks about a sculptor who had created his ideal woman and then fallen in love with the statue. The story says that the Gods felt so bad for him, that they gave the statue life. This is what the story of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins is based on. The 1938 film adaptation, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, stays quite in line with the original writing done by George Bernard Shaw, although the end is quite different. The beauty of this piece for me is the ending where Eliza (Wendy Hiller) actually goes back to Higgins (Leslie Howard) rather than marrying Freddy (David Tree), which is the decision made by Eliza that we are left with in the original writing. The film, unlike the play however, shows Eliza ending up back at Higgins' house, where we hear a closing line of Higgins asking Eliza where his slippers are. This is an important comment because of their earlier conflict regarding his slippers. In fact this final comment made by Higgins even seems to evoke some positive emotion from Eliza as we see her smile lovingly at the man who created her.

         Both stories have an open ending, giving the audience a chance to make their own conclusions. In the play, Higgins ends the last act with a fit of laughter about Eliza marrying Freddy. We are left wondering if his laughter is really being used to cover up tears or if he really will always be the same selfish man we have seen throughout the play. The film, regardless of the fact that the ending is quite the opposite, still leaves us with the same questions. Is it going to be different this time? Is his comment about finding his slippers a joke, or is he serious? Is she there to stay? Perhaps there is a chance that she will. This I believe is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed the film so much. Many times a film adaptation will give happy endings of sorts where we do not find them in the original writings. In this film, however, we saw a happy but somewhat open-ended ending that still left us questioning the real motives and eventual fates of the characters involved, although we wanted to hope for the best but had our fingers crossed.

         This is why I found this filmed production to be quite a success. The true meaning of the story was not lost even with a different ending because we were still given an open-ended outcome that Shaw had originally intended with his work.

Kristin Meschler

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