Is Netflix's alternative ending to The Notebook really so bad?

Certain film moments are permanently etched on to our hearts. The kiss in the surf in From Here to Eternity. The hand on the window in Titanic. The end of The Notebook, where Noah and Allison die of old age holding hands, lost in the memory of each other.

Except that last one isn’t what British Netflix viewers got to see this week. Instead they saw a version of The Notebook where, rather than the film ending with the discovery of two corpses, some birds simply flew over a lake instead.

The ensuing outrage was so huge that Netflix UK was forced to write a weirdly defensive tweet to deny editing the saddest 20 seconds out of the film. “We are getting to the bottom of it asap” they wrote.

Netflix UK & Ireland

Things you should know…

– we did not edit the notebook
– an alternate version exists and was supplied to us
– we are getting to the bottom of it asap
– apparently some films have more than one ending?!

February 27, 2019

As of this morning, the mistake has been corrected, and I’m in two minds about how to react. On one hand, we now all know that The Notebook’s original ending isn’t canon, which automatically makes it far less authoritative.

How are we to really believe that Noah and Allison really died? What if there’s a third alternate ending in existence, where the people who discover their bodies leave the room, then Noah and Allison open their eyes, high-five each other and spend the rest of the afternoon playing Time Crisis in a succession of novelty hats? Or an ending where they jointly possess Police Academy star Michael Winslow and make him do helicopter noises at a bewildered vicar? Or an ending where they look straight into the camera right at the moment of death and simultaneously intone: “None of this actually happened”? How can we believe anything we see any more?

On the other hand, what an interesting experiment this could be. We live a post-Bandersnatch world now, where Netflix viewers are already used to experiencing different outcomes to their friends, so why not maximise this?

Why not keep the alternative version of The Notebook, and show it to people who might appreciate it? Netflix already has the technology to do this. Remember the furore last year when it was accused of recalibrating menu images so black subscribers saw Love, Actually advertised as a Chiwetel Ejiofor film? Let’s do the same with The Notebook. If you’ve watched a lot of films with dead people in it, go ahead and watch the original version. But if your viewing history seems in any way prudish or squeamish, you can see the edited version instead.

In fact, this could work with any number of films. If you’ve shown a preference for happy endings, let’s give you the alternative ending to Terminator 2 where Sarah Connor ends up a happy old granny. If you’ve demonstrated an aversion to heavy-handed Jesus allegories, you could be shown the version of I Am Legend that ends with Will Smith realising that he is essentially a monstrous serial killer and not the saviour of mankind. Or, if Netflix decides that you really wouldn’t like to see any of the Rambo sequels, it could serve up the version of First Blood where Rambo kills himself at the end.

There, a perfect world where everybody gets to see different versions of the same film tailored to their personal preferences. This Notebook mistake might be the beginning of something huge. We might never have to watch anything that challenges us ever again. Hooray for the bubble!


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