11Lost In Translation - The Whisper
Somewhat ironically for a film that succeeds largely due to its sparkling dialogue, the big mystery in Lost in Translation surrounds several lines that can’t be heard.
When fading film star Bob Harris bids a heartfelt farewell to college grad Charlotte on the streets of Tokyo, he whispers part of his goodbye in her ear. Director Sophia Coppola deliberately left this ad-libbed dialogue inaudible to audiences, but that hasn’t stopped eager fans from trying to suss out what’s being said.
Indeed, a quick online search will return videos where editing software has been used to amplify Bob’s voice, supposedly revealing his message to Charlotte. However, given the dreadful audio quality involved, and as the dialogue was unscripted, we’ll never be 100% certain of the exact wording.
E ven if we could be, frankly, this scene stands as a further reminder that some things are best left to the imagination.
10The Dark Knight - The Joker's Scars
Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight is rightly regarded as one of the most iconic villains in film history. While much of this is due to Ledger’s phenomenal acting skills, at least some credit should go to director Christopher Nolan and his co-writer, sibling Jonathan.
In order to craft a truly chilling baddie, the Nolans opted not to serve up a definitive origin for the Clown Prince of Crime. Instead, in nod to graphic novel The Killing Joke, their Joker prefers to take a multiple choice approach to his backstory, relaying two conflicting accounts of how he received his distinctive facial scars.
We never find out whether either story is true – or if he was going to come clean to the Dark Knight prior to being interrupted during the finale – but knowing the Joker, we wouldn’t count on it.
9Children Of Men - Cause of infertility
In Alfonso Cuarón’s big screen adaptation of P.D. James’ novel Children of Men, humanity is forced to confront its own extinction after 20 years of worldwide infertility. While a glimmer of hope does arrive in the form of pregnant refugee Kee, we’re never told exactly how our species found itself in such dire predicament in the first place.
Admittedly, hints are scattered throughout the film – everything from divine judgement to environmental upheaval are presented as possible causes for humankind’s woes. Cuarón – who is vocal on his dislike of exposition-heavy storytelling – intentionally keeps the audience in the dark, both in the movie itself and in subsequent interviews as well.
With the source material providing no additional clarity, it’s going to be tough to ever close the file on this one – although given James wrote the book as a Christian parable, it’s at least possible to speculate on what her original intentions were.
8The Shining - Jack's fate
The Shining arguably sets the standard when it comes to ambiguous storytelling on film. Stanley Kubrick’s spine-tingling depiction of Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness contains numerous unexplained happenings over the course of its 144 minute runtime.
Take the final scene of the film, where a photograph taken in the Outlook Hotel during the 1920s is shown – with Jack standing front and center -- for example. What’s going on here?
One popular theory is that the haunted house has absorbed Jack after he died mid-homicidal spree. Another suggests that the modern day Jack is a reincarnation of a previous occupant from all those years ago.
Regardless of what you believe, we’ll never really know what Kubrick was getting at here – the director preferred to leave the guesswork to audiences, and the photograph doesn’t feature in Stephen King’s original novel – but it gives us shivers just thinking about it.
7The Departed - Who's the father?
Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller The Departed follows the game of cat and mouse between undercover cop Billy Costigan and Irish mob mole Colin Sullivan, who operates within the Massachusetts State Police.
As you’d expect in such a murky scenario, things get pretty tangled along the way – especially after Costigan starts sleeping with Sullivan’s girlfriend, Madolyn.
When Madolyn falls pregnant, it’s not immediately clear who the baby daddy is – Costigan or Sullivan. It’s strongly implied that Sullivan was dysfunctional in the bedroom, whereas from what we see of Costigan and Maddie’s trysts, he definitely did not suffer from similar inadequacies.
Still, Madolyn feels confident enough to reveal the pregnancy to Sullivan without raising his suspicions, which means that there’s at least an outside chance he could be the father.