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Holy Motors Ending, Explained

Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is a wildly confusing movie with an even more confounding ending that leaves audiences baffled upon their first watch. The movie rejects the concept of a traditional narrative and instead opts for a series of interconnected stories that use their absurdist and eccentric plots to paint a wonderfully weird fairytale about the unpredictability and the superficiality of life. The main storyline follows a day in the life of Mr. Oscar, a mysterious actor whose job consists of adopting false identities and completing a variety of increasingly unusual tasks.

Like the rest of Carax’s filmography, Holy Motors is basically impossible to understand on a surface level. The movie purposefully omits several important details of Mr. Oscar’s life, leaving the audience completely in the dark as the story unfolds. While Holy Motors initially appears to make no sense, though, it’s best understood as a metaphor rather than a legible story. It’s a message about how transient our lives are, boldly proving that it is human nature for a person to change appearances and wear new personalities as they travel through life, picking up experiences that transform them along the way.

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What Happens In Holy Motors’ Ending?

Denis Lavant and Kylie Minogue in Holy Motors

Throughout Holy Motors, Mr. Oscar is given a series of “appointments” that force him to adopt a new personality and fulfill his client’s demands. These vary from intense grief counseling to murdering people in cold blood. Mr. Oscar apparently has nine appointments scheduled for the day, but when his workday is finally over, Holy Motors shows him entering a house that isn’t his own and being greeted by a family of chimpanzees. There is no end for Mr. Oscar — he’s transformed so far beyond himself that his real identity doesn’t even exist anymore. He knows nothing except performance.

Holy Motors is a movie that deserved to win the Palme d’Or for its mature exploration of life and its varying stages. The ending might seem weird and nonsensical, but it’s actually a satirical comment from Carax about humanity’s pointless obsession with identity. Everybody wants to be known as one particular thing, but Carax poses that humans can’t be so simply defined. Everybody is a collection of different personalities that are worn at different points in life, and by falsely teasing the audience with a glimpse of Mr. Oscar’s real life, Carax is laughing at those who believe otherwise.

Who Really Is Mr. Oscar?

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors

The real identity of Mr. Oscar is essentially a mystery throughout the entire movie. The only time that Holy Motors‘ audience gets a true look at the man behind the mask is when he’s traveling between appointments in the limousine. Themes involving identity occur throughout Leos Carax’s filmography (including the Adam Driver movie Annette), but Holy Motors really stresses its ideas by making the protagonist completely unknowable. Whether he’s even human is debatable, as he seemingly comes back to life several times after being killed. He displays incredible acting talent, which allows him to pass through life without ever being his true self.

By making Mr. Oscar such an unpredictable and unknowable character, Carax creates a much-needed distance between the audience and the narrative. It’s impossible for viewers to connect with Holy Motors‘ protagonist because he’s never being himself — and this is a huge strength for the movie. It draws attention away from the surface-level story, forcing audiences to think critically and objectively about the action of Mr. Oscar (played by Denis Lavant, who is also known for playing Charlie Chaplin in Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely) and how they’re relevant in the real world. He isn’t even a character but merely a manifestation that Carax uses to promote his commentary.

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What Do The Limousines Represent?

The Driver in Holy Motors

Holy Motors’ cars are an extremely recognizable feature of the movie, particularly in its final scene. After driving into the garage that gives the movie its title, Mr. Oscar’s limousine starts having a conversation with others around it. It’s an incredibly bold and fascinating way to close the story, but by presenting these limousines as living creatures with their own thoughts and consciousnesses, Leos Carax is merely emphasizing their importance in the story. They aren’t just vehicles that he uses to navigate the city, but rather manifestations of life itself. They’re the only place where Mr. Oscar has a connection to the real world.

The talking limousines (which can feel like an arthouse film version of Pixar’s Cars franchise) can also be read as a metaphor for time itself — they’re the driving force that pushes us through life, guiding people steadily between different stages of existence. While everything around people — including themselves — changes, time is the one constant that remains the same and anchors them to their true selves. Carax’s commentary on the limousines adds a new level of intelligence and insight to his story. They’re the only aspect of the narrative that remains the same, and it’s only inside these cars that Mr. Oscar is shown as he truly is.

The Real Meaning Of Holy Motors’ Ending

Holy Motors Garage in Holy Motors

Above all, Holy Motors is a surreal movie about how appearances and reality are rarely the same. Though people like to believe that their life is one constant existence, Leos Carax suggests that as they journey through different stages of being, they change so drastically that there’s eventually no trace of their original selves left. It’s a fascinating — and unsettling — idea that blends expertly with his surrealist filmmaking, forcing the audience to come face-to-face with a protagonist that basically represents their own loss of identity. Mr. Oscar might not be truly human, but he holds a mirror to Carax’s interpretation of the human condition.

In what is Eva Mendes’s best-reviewed movie role, Kay M summarizes this idea perfectly. She’s kidnapped by Mr. Oscar and taken down to the sewers, where they share an intimate moment. Like the protagonist, she’s a performer. Her modeling career forces her to adopt an exaggerated personality, and Mr. Oscar relates to this. She’s one of the few people who remind him of his own condition, and in these few scenes they share, a slight glimpse of the real Mr. Oscar shines through. Life is filled with transformations and distortions, and while it can be difficult for people to access their true selves, Holy Motors proves it is possible.

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