Welcome to the Ending Explained for ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing,’ a 1965 mystery film written and directed by Otto Preminger. The film stars Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, and Martita Hunt. The film tells a story of mystery and deceit as a young woman tries to find her missing daughter, but everyone believes that the child doesn’t exist in the first place. Is the woman going crazy? Or has she been the victim of a bad joke? The movie tries to confuse the audience in the same way it tries to confuse its main character. The result is a fascinating investigation that ends up in a very disturbing place.
‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’ is one of those films that definitely survived the notion of time. For a movie over a century old, the production values and the artistry behind it are still quite amazing. The film displays amazing direction by Otto Preminger, who knows exactly what to show and what not to show to maintain the mystery long enough to keep guessing until the very end when the revelations come.
There is also an amazing display of camera work. The movements are decisive, and the way the camera approaches the subject matter seems to be the most objective possible way, which enhances the contradictions in the story.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’. Read at your own risk.
What happened to Bunny Lake?
The film starts with the introduction of Stephen Lake, also known only as Steven. He seems to be a refined young man who works as a journalist in England. He also seems to be attached to several diplomatic missions and has contacts. We see him getting out of a big house and ordering the movers to a certain address.
He says that at that address, they will find his sister, Ann. When we meet Ann, she is going to the Little People’s Garden Pre-School. We see her going out of a room and then trying to find a teacher, but she cannot. The place is totally empty of adults. She is late and can only talk to the cook before leaving. The cook assures her that the teachers will appear soon.
Ann goes to the address where the movers are waiting for her. Ann and her daughter Bunny are new in England, so this is the new place where they will live. She meets Mr. Wilson, their despicable landlord, who comes and goes as he pleases. Ann starts unpacking their things, including Bunny’s and then leaves to pick her up at the Pre-School.
However, Ann is the only one without her child when all the kids go out. She starts looking around the building, but Bunny is nowhere to be seen. It seems no one has ever seen the child.
Ann calls her brother, who appears, and the situation becomes more and more serious. It seems someone has taken Bunny and left. The police get involved, with Superintendent Newhouse taking control of the situation. Newhouse starts questioning everyone.
He starts to gather information and concludes that Bunny couldn’t have gone outside the building alone; someone must have taken her. They meet Mrs. Ford, one of the school’s founders; she seems a bit crazy and believes that something weird is happening with the Lake family.
Steven is caught in a lie when Mrs. Ford confesses to the police that Lake told her that Ann had an imaginary friend when she was a child. She called this imaginary friend Bunny, and she thought this imaginary friend was her own daughter.
When Newhouse asks Steven about it, Steven denies this happened in the past, while Mrs. Ford declares that this is what he told her. Before leaving, Mrs. Ford declares that Steven must be lying; she knows a liar when she sees one. She has a ton of experience with little kids.
Is Bunny Lake Real?
After nothing more can be done at the preschool, he receives notification that the apartment where the Lake family is staying has no signs of a child being there. It seems all of Bunny Lake’s possessions have just disappeared. This makes Ann confused. She knows she unpacked Bunny’s things, and we, as the audience, saw her doing it. Is Ann going crazy? Are we going crazy too? Not even her passport is around. Ann becomes frustrated and doesn’t know what to do.
Newhouse begins to question if this case is just a farce and that Ann must be a very disturbed young woman. Maybe the child doesn’t even exist. However, Steven, her brother, also acts as if the child exists as well.
Newhouse notices that Steven seems to be in charge of every arrangement concerning Ann and Bunny coming to England. It seems they arrived just around five days before, although Steven says it was only four days before. Ann notices that Steven has a receipt for Bunny’s doll reparation at the toy maker; this could be proof that the girl exists.
She goes out at night and goes to the store, where she finds the doll, proving that Bunny exists. Steven follows her to the store; she gives him the doll while she pays the toy maker. It is here that the movie reveals the true villain in the situation. Steven burns the doll, and his face transforms into that of a crazy person. When Ann returns, she hits her unconscious and takes her into his car. At the beginning of the film, they go to the house, and we see that Bunny is real and has been inside Steven’s car trunk all this time.
Steven reveals himself as a crazy man, still trapped in his mind at the time he and Ann were children. It seems he is in love with Ann and wants to have a future together, but when Bunny comes along, Ann forgets about him. Now, Steven is erasing Bunny from existence so that he and Ann can be alone.
Ann plays along and starts playing children’s games with Steven, buying time until she can find a way to take Bunny away from there. Newhouse discovers that Steven lied about their arrival date and goes to the house to confront him. They arrive just in time to arrest Steven. Ann and Bunny leave the scene of the crime together.