The Final Shot: Fade to White

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What does it mean when a filmmaker doesn’t fade to black but fades to white?

You’re watching a movie and you reach the final shot. What happens right before the credits? More often than not, we see either a cut to black or a fade to black. But what about when a film fades to white? Does this feel different? Extremely. Here’s why.

While fading to black seems to present closure, fading to white creates ambiguity. We begin to question what we just watched. Did any of this happen? Was this all in the character’s head? Did this character just die? These are just a few of the many questions that a fade to white ending can bring to mind. This video essay examines some notable examples of fade to white endings. Additionally, we have replaced more traditional endings with fades to white in order to demonstrate the power of the simple technique. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the five examples.

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