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Understanding Denouement- Film & Literature Examples & Guides

Understanding Denouement: Film Examples & Guides

Denouement is a literary element in which an action giving resolution to an essential part of a story occurs. We’ve seen denouement used in a variety of different storytelling situations, including literature and films as well as video games and podcasts. For a literary element that is used in so many unique situations, it would seem like people would better understand how denouement works in film, but it’s not always as simple as it may seem. These denouement film examples will help you to better understand just how denouement comes into play within the narrative of some of your favorite films.

Throughout film and literature there are many different ways that denouement comes into play. In fact, a narrative is incomplete without a denouement. Whether explicit or implicit, denouement represents the action which provides a resolution to the underlying theme, relationship or events of the story.

Explicit Denouement Film & Literature Examples

Explicit denouement relies on action to provide resolution to an important aspect of the story. To better understand explicit denouement, film examples such as the following can make it a bit easier to follow:

  • In The Lion King Produced by Disney, the denouement is represented by Simba’s restoration of peace to the Prideland, no longer is there war in the Prideland.
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  • In The Wizard of Oz, the denouement is represented by Dorothy’s return to Kansas where her family is so happy to see her and she’s happy to be home, no longer is she wishing she could be somewhere else.
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  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief kills McMurphy and jumps from an asylum window, killing himself as well. No longer is he captive, this resolving the theme of the story.

Implicit Denouement Film & Literature Examples

Implicit denouement relies on inaction to provide resolution to the narrative story. With implicit denouement, only through the inaction taking place is a solution provided to the theme, relationships or events of the film.

For example:

  • In La La Land the denouement occurs at the moment when both Sebastian and Mia achieve their goals, but it wasn’t without loss, it cost their relationship but, because it did provide a resolution.
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  • In A Streetcar Named Desire the denouement occurs when Blanche’s inaction resolves the relationship between herself and others within the story, Stanley and Stella.

The Resolution

As you can see in each of these denouement film examples, denouement represents the portion of the plot in which the resolution to the conflict of the story takes place.

Because denouement can be so incredibly different depending on the storyline and the individual elements of the conflict, learning how to recognize denouement in film and literature can be challenging, but if you focus on how it can be used to restore the narrative by offering a resolution, you’ve got yourself on the right path. 

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