Nailing the Ending: Paul Verhoeven
There’s lots to study in Paul Verhoeven’s work. Some of his skills are hard to quantify, particularly his distinct use of tone and social commentary –– it’s something so unique to him that it’s almost impossible to replicate (see: any of the remakes based on his work).
One thing that is learnable is how he ends his films. In some cases, he’s able to carry emotional momentum all the way through the final frame –– which is especially impressive considering that most other movies are winding down at that point.
Check out this example from STARSHIP TROOPERS. Rather than a quick wrap-up, this is a full-on setup for another film that I would gladly watch. The music, title movement, and camera direction all work in synchrony to end the film on an energetic high note. The ending starts at 1:05:
Another good example is BASIC INSTINCT. The final shot reframes everything you thought you knew. I’m sure that moment was in the script, but Verhoeven executes it with such panache –– the Goldsmith music cue, blocking, and fade in/out are aces –– that it really leaves an impression as the end credits roll. It also carries the suspense all the way through to the end credits:
Conversely, Verhoeven also knows when to ignore the script completely. Check out the final scene in the ROBOCOP script:
In the final film, Verhoeven wisely chose to end on “Murphy.” It’s much more powerful –– especially with the music fade-in and the title slam on black screen. The ending starts at 1:32:
Good directors know how to leave an impression. Nothing about Verhoeven is subtle, but that’s what makes his films so memorable. He swings for the fences every time, and intuitively knows when and how to end a film.