The only known explanation for that disjunction, then, is that it’s all a performance…a single tuning-up that’s not consistent with the rest of the movie. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear: With Lydia’s final sortie into the tulip farmers’ ball, followed by her triumph over them in the tulip race, she becomes a vessel for the desperation of a populace that has learned of the conditions of their independence for the first time. The film’s largely ascetic cinematography and soundtrack suggest that Lydia doesn’t feel uplifted by the ascent she’s made, but merely cleansed by it. Still, to the extent that she appears motivated by something other than vanity (of which there’s ample evidence), her intention lies clearly elsewhere — toward a better, more socially and economically just order for the land and its people. It falls to her to act on this impulse. Having exhausted her troops with the lie of independence, this is the last of her lies, and the last she ever tells. As the tulip race begins, the close-ups of her face in the last shot of the film become almost so numerous that she becomes a photographic negative of herself. Now she’s free to tell her entire truth, the one she’d hidden behind her performance, the one that’s been growing as her world crumbles all along.
Each of the two final scenes, then, ends sharply: Their transition into the real world of labor and yearning functions like the fast forward transition of a DVD of a movie you’ve never seen. To avoid any excessive questioning of the framing, the answers are simple — “I agree; I hope so,” — which is what a public figure, or a revolution, should expect to face. No matter how many times we’ve seen Blanchett’s films, we can never really expect to see them a second time. But with everything she’s said, and done, and revealed, the thing we learned most about her at the end of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the thing she’s finally revealed to us, is that we’re still in the beginning. d2c66b5586