Scene Analysis: The Vast Nothingness – The Realistic End in “The Last Winter”

Note: This clip is from a version of the film dubbed in French

Larry Fessenden’s 2006 The Last Winter brings us environmental catastrophe, a hauntingly real world-ending thriller. Fessenden introduces North Corporation, a government-backed oil research and building team, working under the watchful eye of two environmental experts. They are all living in the same Alaskan base-camp, the builders trying to complete their oil construction project, and the environmentalists trying to prevent disaster. Slowly, and then with sweeping speed, members of this community start brutally dying, as a “creature” of environmental collapse bares its razor-sharp teeth.

The Last Winter is eye-catching, effectively inciting fear among its viewers of environmental damage and disaster. Despite the continuous chaos that sears through the film, one of the standout scenes comes at the very close of the film. In this scene, the last remaining member of the oil team, Abby Sellers (played by Connie Britton), wakes up alone in a hospital-like room. This comes after the violent and unusual deaths of the other crew members.

After waking up from what seems to have been a nightmare, composed of the whole duration of the film, she looks for others. The emptiness in each of the subsequent frames begins to hint that her loneliness is only about to be more profoundly realized. Just Abby in an open room. A flash of tile on the cold-looking hospital floor, bare. A single broken vile of urine, yellowing the cold tile. This leads Abby to open a nearby door, to find a hospital team member hanging still from the ceiling.

As Abby seeks an exit to the hospital, the camera focuses on her point of view. Then, in the final seconds, the camera places Abby within her surroundings. What is Abby looking at? Seeing Abby surrounded by puddling water is enough. The audience has already come to learn that there is nothing beyond this point. The collapse of the environment has brought about the “end,” making this final framing and camera perspective cleverly placed.

Fessenden’s sound techniques in this final scene of the movie, from the empty hospital, to the desolate outdoors, make this final scene more powerful. The absence of dialogue speaks for itself, it is a frightening reality, there is no one else left to speak with. Once Abby makes it out of the hospital doors, there is no relief, still no one around to communicate with, only a blaring siren, cutting through the dead air.

In these final moments of The Last Winter, Fessenden effectively emphasizes the very real horrors of environmental destruction, bound to leave the stench of death in the universe we call home.

Becca Ascherman: I am an undergraduate student at Brandeis University, majoring in film, but I enjoy to try a little bit of everything and am so excited to write for Brattle Film Notes!
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