Perhaps I am not giving Harold and Maude enough credit. I suppose my crush on Vivian Pickles might be getting in the way. Because there is, in fact, a conclusion…a recognizable denouement…in this story.
First off, Maude isn’t as contradictory to her nature as I might claim. It isn’t until the end of the film when she attempts suicide that we understand Maude’s real relationship to death. Maude, not Harold, has the death wish and acts on it. Harold fantasizes as a means of escape. Death really isn’t in the cards. He is more like you and me, more like most people. And when Maude is in the hospital recovering, he sees things for what they are.
In the end, Harold runs the Jaguar his mother gave him — a car he had converted into a sort of sports car hearse — off a cliff. The car, a gift in his mother’s ongoing attempts to set Harold on a more traditional path, became yet another sign of his rebellion and so when he dumps it off the cliff we can presume he’s done with that rebellion.
Harold finishes the film strumming a banjo and skipping a dance on an open hilltop along the ocean. We might presume that he has awakened from his dour pessimism and feels genuinely carefree. So Maude isn’t such a bad foil after all. By breaking with the life affirming quality of her character, she awakens Harold.
There…there is a quick and dirty reading to close the film. I’m finished with Harold and Maude for a while.
- Treading Lightly Still (alittletourinyellow.wordpress.com)