Every now and then New Zealand manages to surprise the rest of the world with excellent genre movies. Geoff Murphy’s THE QUIET EARTH is definitely one for the books. Despite scoring on so many various levels (from script, dialogues & character drawings to the actual directing & acting), it is undoubtedly the memorable ending that is etched in the memories of all who ever saw it.
In the opening-scene, a man, Zac Hobson, wakes up one morning in what could appear to be a post-apocalyptic world. Only, it’s not an apocalypse as any of us could have imagined. The earth is still the same, only… all the people have vanished. For the plot and story of the movie, I kindly refer you to our reviews section. What interests us on this page, is its iconic ending, and yes, it ends with a frozen frame, of course. Though not a “shock ending” in the strictest sense of the word, it sure is an eye-opener…
I assume you, dear reader, have seen the movie already, otherwise you wouldn’t be on this page. As you know then, Zac Hobson, who was partly responsible for the worldwide catastrophe of making all the people disappear, ended up sacrificing himself by blowing up the research facility, hoping he’d hereby end the on-going, disastrous consequences of the highly unstable Flashlight project. Only, the poor guy doesn’t die, at least if we follow the logic of the movie. And this is were the speculation and imagination of the viewer is anticipated on. Just go check the internet for the various interpretations of the ending. They range in great width from plain ludicrous to very well-thought out. Just keep in mind that we’re dealing with quantum physics here and a lot of it is based on pure theory.
So what happens at the end of THE QUIET EARTH…? After Zac successfully blows up the facility, we are treated one more time with those spaced-out visuals and find Zac waking up on a beach. When he stands up and looks to the horizon, the conclusion unfolds. The viewer and Zac simultaneously behold…
(16×9 widescreen still)
Together with a planet that could be Saturn rising up on the horizon, the end-credits start to scroll:
And strangely enough, the camera does cut back one more time to Zac’s face, looking a bit confused at his little recording device and then looking back up to the amazing sky again, his expression frozen on the screen.
Did Zac die and go to heaven, like some internet theories claim? No, he didn’t. My take on it, is that the second effect of project Flashlight caused the whole cosmos to shift, with Zac waking up in a parallel reality or an alternate universe if you will. He might very well still be on earth, although it’s not the earth anymore as we know it.
But no matter how you look at it, every theory about the movie’s ending is either flawed or conflicts with the logic previously handled in the movie. Did the effect occur on the exact time of his death like it did before? Not likely, for then he would still be on the old earth. Did the effect happen just before the explosion, while he was still alive? Then why weren’t Joanne and Api with him on the beach? They were alive too when the effect took place. Maybe they were somewhere on the beach with him, but further away, since they were watching the explosion from a certain distance. Maybe if the movie would have went on a little longer, they’d come running towards Zac on the beach…? I highly doubt it. And it’s a good thing that the movie didn’t go on any longer. It’s good that we don’t have all the answers. It makes the ending much more profound, astonishing and all the more memorable.
(although a complete spoiler-o-rama, it’s fun to see some of the highlights for those who have seen the movie):
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