‘The Man’ ending explained: Alex Garland breaks down the final scene

Garland originally envisioned a sequence similar to “An American Werewolf in London,” but the Japanese cartoon pushed him in a more innovative body-horror direction.

[Editor’s note: The following article contains major spoilers for the ending of “Men.”]

Alex Garland Knowing one thing audiences are sure to talk about when they stumble from his new film “The Man” is the ending. When Harper (Jesse Buckley) takes an inevitable misconceived solo holiday in the English countryside to get away from husband James (Papa Essediu), she jumps off the roof of a London apartment block right before her eyes. down.

Throughout Harper’s stay in the sprawling house, she is tormented by a succession of men, all played by Rory Kinnear: first the goofy groundskeeper Jeffrey, Then a staggering naked man coming out of the woods, then a gaslighting priest, a handy alcoholic, and even, at one point, a nasty little boy whose face overlapped Kinnear’s .

But in the film’s final moments, the low-key surrealism and horror-movie set that Buckley employs takes on a more eerie, terrifying form of body horror. In the climactic scene, every version of Rory Kinnear we’ve seen so far spawns the next, a moment that writer/director Garland describes as a “rolling birth” sequence. Through the CGI vagina formed under the horribly inflated torso of the Kinnear character, another person bursts out, and then another person, another person, starts from the outside of the house, as the entity, um, repeatedly enters the house like a kind of human tight-fitting .

In the end, Harper met James, naked and submerged in embryonic fluid, and he told her that all he wanted was her love. Even in death (or birth?), he’s as manipulative as ever, as early flashbacks to the couple’s final moments suggest a leaning toward gaslighting — including threatening suicide when she threatens divorce.

The symbolism of this bloody, disgusting, out-of-body moment even Garland can’t fully explain in words A recent interview with IndieWire – or at least not willing to. That’s decoded for the audience. But he can talk about the synthesis of prosthetics, visual effects and disturbing conditions that produced the moment.

Jesse Buckley,



Garland said the ending “will always be the destination, but not [originally] Takes the same form as in the finished film. Garland first wrote the script 15 years ago and didn’t rewrite it until 2020. Initially, he had some more recognizable horror movie imagery in mind, especially the shapeshifting horror movies of the 1980s.

“In the original version of the script, it was mutation. The first time I wrote it as mutation, it didn’t turn into a rolling birth sequence until well, it was actually during pre-production,” he said. “We tried to imagine what these mutations would look like, but something just went wrong. It felt weak. In theory, it wasn’t that strong. What happens is that when I try to visualize it, I end up effectively Reworked images from David Cronenberg movies or ‘The Thing’ or even ‘The American Werewolf of London’.”

Of course, this sequence evokes these comparisons, like Robin R. Botting’s biological work “The Thing” or Rick Baker’s Oscar-winning beastly transformation in “American Werewolf,” an initially recognizable human being then became something other Than humans go through horrific perversions. But instead, Garland and his visual effects team (including Austin Appling, the VFX producer on Garland’s “annihilation” alien landscape) pushed for something that would make the narrative more complete—because of birth and death The cycle runs through the myth of the film. (Vaguely sketched) A visual reference to Sheela Na Gig, a Gaelic symbol of fertility.


Screenshots from ‘The Man’ trailer show the film’s horrific ending


“There’s a long history of body terror, which has to do with bones moving under the flesh and muscles twisting or expanding, and so on,” Garland said. “Everything I do feels like I’m reshaping the imagery that I think I know, so everyone knows it, and it also feels a little weaker thematically. I just know something’s missing.”

But instead of breaking free from body-horrifying giants like David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, Garland found unlikely inspiration in the Japanese animated series Attack on Titan.

“It was over the Christmas break and I found myself watching the animated TV show Attack on Titan with my daughter. I was really shocked how much they did, in a way, how much of the stuff that scared the Titans actually was. It’s kind of pathetic, but also kind of mediocre,” he said. “Like, they enlarge the eyes a little bit, or they give people awkward movements. It feels a little bit weirdly subtle, or weird nuance, but incredibly powerful. My idea is that they’re bigger than I’ve always been. The idea since has been more imaginative and courageous because I’ve been trying to stack things together. It’s like adding a rear wing, multiple legs, five mouths, and it’s not scary enough. I took another look.”

He said Attack on Titan had “this strange purity that made me work harder, think harder, and think about the nude form. Usually, when we’re presenting the nude form, there’s a tendency, in part From self-consciousness, but also from art, nude statues, nude forms are presented, shaped and arranged. If someone just walks through the room to pick up something, it is not conscious, and I feel that Attack on Titan is not between picking and arranging forms. The conscious part.”

Men, from left: Rory Kinnear, Jessie Buckley, 2022.  © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

Rory Kinnear in The Man

Courtesy Everett Collection

Love it, hate it, or ignore it for being pretentious, this sequence is a marvel of prosthetics and VFX working together. But Garland said the reality of the shoot “was a fucking nightmare, especially for Rory. He was very, very cold. He was doing what I think would take a lot of courage. From him, because he didn’t wear Clothes. It freezes. He’s got a whole bunch of staff around him all wearing down jackets, holding booms, putting down camera tracks, and what he’s doing is inherently bound to trigger a whole bunch of very human self-conscious impulses.”

Garland said he was “very worried about him,” but Kinnear was “brave and outspoken, no bullshit. He just kept on doing it. In a sense, there were actors who were going to make these two weeks of filming very, very difficult.” , which is understandable, but he’s such a game. If you can imagine, all these things you do in -2 [degrees], and you also crawled out of a prosthetic limb that had nothing to do with anything real. It looks silly. It looks totally ridiculous. He trusts everyone around him very much. I am very grateful to him, really, very admired. “

But what does all this mean? Even the director didn’t give you that answer.

“The Man” is out now from A24.

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