My Explanation and Walkthrough of A Cure For Wellness
A Cure For Wellness is a tricky little Brahms Stoker's Dracula clone that has enough cleverness to make it worth while for a second time around the bend.
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My Explanation and Walkthrough of A Cure For Wellness

I track the movies that I am most excited about over in the right hand gutter of this site. If you read THinc. on your mobile device, you’ll also find those light bulbs at the bottom of each post if you are interested in finding out what movies I am most excited about. A Cure For Wellness was one of the very first movies I put out on that list as it had everything I adore in a movie. Complicated storyline, great actors, curious premise, etc. etc. So when my family went away for the weekend and left me to my own devices, I don’t think they were gone more than 15 minutes before I was figuring out when the earliest showing was.

Is the movie worth your seeing it? I don’t know. I adored it. It was different than your standard super hero fare of course. I know – if you enjoyed the Keanu Reeves version of Brahm Stoker’s Dracula… then I think it’s safe to say you’d like A Cure For Wellness. The stories are very very similar in structure and form. Regardless, I loved it. You are here. You love it. Enough!

“I would like you to go to Switzerland and bring Mr. Pembroke back to us.” And with that, I introduce to you, Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. No, wait. Sorry, “A Cure For Wellness.”

A Cure For Wellness Deep Dive

Can I make a quick comment about utilizing Switzerland more for movie locations? I mean, really? There literally is no more beautiful location on the planet. My father-in-law has a home there and have been lucky enough to get to stay there a couple of times. And quite literally, it is the most majestic scenery I’ve ever experienced. Like Clouds of Sils, I was just transfixed every time Gore Verbinski showed us the mountains around the castle. Never mind the fact that this castle is in Germany. Cough. Hahaha.

Anyway, as I do here, I would like to discuss, dismantle, explain, the movie A Cure For Wellness. So if you haven’t seen it yet. Chop chop. Like I said, the basic plot line for this movie is simple enough. Some random American corporation (which looks a heck of a lot like Enron to me) is cooking its books day after day. But in the middle of said cooking, they begin looking into a merger that will make them all richer than the dreams of avarice. Only glitch? Their CEO, and chief book cooker, Mr. Pembroke, has gone AWOL. Worse yet? He’s sent them a letter from a spa in Switzerland espousing just absolutely bonkers enlightenment craziness. ‘Those who’ve been awoken can’t go back to sleep.’ You know the type. So someone has to go and fetch him. And the other alternative just had a heart attack. So we have your young and earnest book cooker in training… I think we should send him!

And so Lockhart (Dane Dehaan) heads to Switzerland. But when he arrives, visiting hours are over, and every attempt to even find Pembroke is rebuffed. Not only is it rebuffed, but every attempt by Lockhart serves to pull him deeper and deeper into the strange things going on at this “spa”. Every conversation with patients playing croquet, or chatting on the veranda, seems to indicate that all is not right here. There are weird throbbing sounds coming from a blocked off area of the resort, patients are losing teeth prodigiously, and why is it that no one ever wants to leave? But it isn’t until Lockhart’s car crashes into a tree, and Lockhart finds himself admitted at last, do things really start coming off the rails.

Pembroke still is Lockhart’s goal and every focus. Even though his leg is broken, and he should have other things on his mind instead… like survival. He shadows Pembroke at his spa treatments and in the sauna. Several times Pembroke assures Lockhart he won’t be coming back. And yet, Lockhart is certain that something is keeping them there against their will. “Why would I want to leave?”

The Story Behind the Story of A Cure For Wellness

Lockhart – and the audience – is clearly aware that there is something wrong with the water. There’s also something wrong with the treatments that the patients are getting… but what is it? When Lockhart meets Hannah she seems young, and yet mature simultaneously. There is something about her that is completely setting off all of his alarm bells. She seems to be a patient, and yet more like a daughter to the head of the sanitarium, Volmer. Volmer has a photo of her on his desk… and yet, he says she’s a very important patient of his.

And what is really going on in these treatments? Gah. Well, Lockhart begins finding out first hand as the treatments start for him. The isolation chamber is a unique form of hell that will purge the chaos and ills of this world from his soul. Volmer lets Lockhart know that the pain that he will experience is the toxins leaving his system. Enter the eels. I’ve read quite a bit about the filming of this scene. Apparently they were originally considering putting real eels in the tank and then they realized what a terrible idea that was. But even so, it was a terribly difficult scene to film. But I digress… enter the eels, and enter Lockhart’s suffocation as he tries to escape from the eels that were circling to pounce.

But it isn’t until Lockhart is caught and put into the iron lung contraption that we start to get a clue as to what is happening here at the sanitarium. Lockhart had been wondering what these machines were for, but now he gets to see. And Volmer explains it to him as well. It is through the eels and the waters of the castle that life is given. And it is from this contraption that this life is distilled. More importantly though, Hannah. Hannah, due to her leaving of the castle with Lockhart, got her first period. Which, apparently, was a fairly important day to Volmer. But why?

The History of the Castle and the Baron

Let’s go backwards a minute. 200 years ago, the Baron of the ruins that lay in the center of the quad, desired to have a pure heir to his estate. So he marries his sister, but when he realizes she is infertile he begins doing horrible experiments on the peasants of the town. (Thus the terrible relationship between the town and the castle.) And they eventually rise up and attack the baroness. But what is this? She’s pregnant. So they cut the baby from her womb and toss her baby into the aqueduct and burn her at the stake. And at first it is believed that the baby died. Except she didn’t.

Eventually we learn that Hannah is the Baroness’ daughter. She not only survived but she has taken 200 years to reach puberty. And not only that, but Hannah is Volmer’s own daughter. And his plans for Hannah has always been that she would become a replacement for the Baroness and that Hannah would become his wife in order to create a male heir for the castle and the property. But… HOW?!

The Waters of the Castle That Cure Wellness

The Baron discovered the waters of the castle to hold amazing powers. Those powers? Long life. Long long long life. The Baron realized there was something magical here. And it was Baron Volmer’s secret experiments that helped to distill a potion or vitamin water or whatever you want to call it, which came from the Iron Long-esque devices. A human goes in, and out comes oil. It’s as if the devices squeeze the life out of the test subjects and drips it into containers for others to consume and receive long as a result. “Oh, that’s awful…” “Oh, you eventually get used to it.”

So this is the secret of the cure for wellness. The cure for wellness was framed as a fix for what ails us in this modern world. The worries of this life… the chaos of this life… come to the famous Switzerland Sanitarium and find your cure to the insanity of life. No. Come to this spa and become the cure to someone who is desiring to never die. That is the trick of this movie.

Remember when Lockhart begins to write a letter that is similar to the letter that Pembroke sent back to the company? Half way through he realized what he was doing and he ripped it up. He also hacked off the cast that was on his leg realizing that it was just a ruse meant to keep him at the castle. He realized that the Cure was anything but a cure.

The Finale of A Cure For Wellness Explained

Volmer, intent on creating his heir that he has waited for for the past 200 years, ties up Hannah and is ready to impregnate her. But Lockhart, figuring out what is going on here and the danger that Hannah is in rushes to the basement to help her. A fight ensues and ultimately Volmer’s face is ripped off to show the hideously burnt face from years and years ago. Apparently he had been medically gluing on faces to appear whole. Volmer gets read to to toss Lockhart into the eel tank that lives off the bodies of those that they extract the oils from. But Hannah lodges a shovel in Volmer’s head and then he falls into the tank.

But what about that grin? Let’s hit that in the theories section!

A Cure For Wellness Theories Explained

Personally I believe that the movie explained above pretty solidly locks down what actually happened. Maybe there’s some waivering on Hannah and the Baron bit? Maybe?!? But I doubt it. It’s fairly well accepted that that is what happened. Please tell me if you disagree. I will giggle and then show you how you are wrong. But that’s pretty normal around here. hahaha. But I do think there is some serious ambiguity about the last 30 seconds of the movie. If you remember, Lockhart and Hannah take off on the bike together. Right? And half way down they wipe out crashing into the car of the company men who are on their way to retrieve Lockhart and Pembroke themselves. Right? YOU MUST COME WITH US NOW!!! Sort of a confrontation. Right? Well, then Lockhart is like, screw you… Hannah and I are out.

AND THEN HE GRINS OMINOUSLY DOWN THE BARREL OF THE CAMERA.

Theory 1 – A Cure For Wellness Life Ever After

My first theory here is lame. Lame lame lame. But I have to put it down because it is the most obvious possibility. Lockhart, realizing that Volmer was onto something, takes Hannah with the intent of continuing on the life everlasting tradition. This would eventually require Lockhart to double back and take over Volmer’s place as the Count Dracula figure… but would also allow him to have Hannah, and eternal life. HATE IT. But yeah, that grin is weird.

Theory 2 – A Cure For Wellness The Sequel

Could it be that Lockhart, while not wanting to recreate the ‘cure’ has in his hands a woman that has lived for over 200 years and is intent on some other evil? Revenge on the corporation? Revenge on the towns people? A Circus show with his freakishly old wife? I don’t know.

Theory 3 – A Cure For Wellness’ Cure for Wellness

The double back of the movie is simple enough… the  people in the spa weren’t getting the cure, they were the medicine. Right? But the theory is still real enough. Today, you and I are inundated with hell on earth craziness. There is disease. There is famine. There is the 9 to 5 job. Can I get an amen? Ok, so the real cure to this supposed wellness is a real awakening. A sort of Allegory of the Cave (everyone is locked in a cave, watching shadows from a fire that is behind them, and they think that the shadows are reality… but the philosopher comes and wakens everyone to the fact that they were in bondage and need to leave the cave and wake up. Basically the movie The Matrix.) experience. We need to wake up from this life, and realize that there is something more that we are missing. Well, Lockhart has been awakened. He was once a deceptive, evil person. And he sees that his motivations were all wrong. Now he is in love. Now he is off to create the real cure for “wellness”.

You see, the title of the movie is deceptive. A Cure for Wellness speaks to the problems of this world and our definition of wellness. Intrinsically we all know that this world lies to us. Marketers tell us regularly that you deserve a break to day, etc. They tell us that to be comfortable is to know the meaning of life. And yet, when we are fully comfortable we all still ache with a deeper longing for the meaning of life, and purpose. (If you don’t, please tell me your trick, because I want to know all about it.) And so maybe Lockhart has seen deeply into the lies of this world, and the pursuit of everlasting life which totally jibes with the lies of the marketing and the people around us.

And so I think that Lockhart has discovered love, and selflessness for the first time in his life. He has realized that living a simple life with his wife is where it’s at instead of chasing the golden ring. Which, is the title of the movie. Not the medicine and vitamins that we have been seen throughout the entire movie. So maybe, The Cure For Our Supposed Wellness is actually that final grin… the love of someone treasured. Maybe the meaning of life is deeper than everlasting life. Maybe Lockhart has solved the riddle to the enigma of life in his own mind?

I don’t know… what do you think the meaning of the last 30 seconds of the movie are? Or, heck… the whole movie? Where did I miss it?

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26 Responses

  1. Lionel

    (First, I apologize for bad English, I’m French)

    I have a question : why do you focus on the last 30 seconds of the movie ?

    Maybe some explanation can be found on the first 30 seconds…

    Regards,

    Lionel.

    Reply
    • Fraser Secret

      Lionel, I went and re-watched the first 8 minutes or so of the movie. Good idea, sir. The beginning greatly informs the end.

      Reply
      • Bernardo

        Could you please explain your pont of view?

        Thanks

    • Taylor Holmes

      The beginning was her going into the house by herself and sort of but not really getting connected to the other side. Yes? Just trying to remember, didn’t watch it again, but now I think I should. Geeze. Thanks for that! hahaha. One more movie to add to elongating list.

      Reply
    • Santa

      I’ve watched the begining like 3 times in a row… guess i’m just dumb because I couldn’t find anything to help! I definitly don’t get it. Could you explain? It’s driving me crazy!!

      Reply
  2. Judy

    Just watched the movie for the first time – experienced the whole thing as a monumental, layered, dark fairy tale. I too was curious about the grin at the end, and I guess any theory is as good as any other. I went back and rewatched the first 12 minutes but didn’t see anything that clarified the end… what am I missing? Although I did see how Lockhart’s view towards life and death changed greatly – at the beginning of the movie, he carelessly threw away the office’s dead goldfish into the wastebasket – and at the end, he was deeply aware of and concerned about life and death… Oh – something that was very exciting to me – Dr. Volmer was HAP! (from The OA) 🙂

    Reply
  3. Fragile Infinity

    Do you remember that melody that Hannah hummed which was the melody that the balerinas that Lockhart mother was incessantly making. So that plus the fact the aging lady at the sanatorium saying :”she didn’t know”(about the baroness). Another detail that leads me to believe my “awful “theory is the flashes of deathly throws of Lockhart mother, which included the scene of the evil hospital. That Lockhart is actually Hannah’s brother. Here I explained the grin. Awfully but it’s horror film.
    If someone could explain why his mother had those flashes and the melody that seemed to be the same.

    Reply
    • Vikaz

      I agree that Lockhart is Hannah’s brother. His mother was “burned” as well and played the song which Hannah hums before she met lockhart. And the cycle continues… He kidnaps her and is in love with her. He now has the cure (which is eternal life) hence creepy smile. Why would he ever want to leave.

      Reply
  4. Keith

    Why did he have all of his teeth at the end? The dentist drilled a hole in one and he lost another. Yet his grin was a full set of 32.
    Was Lockhart hallucinating about escaping?

    Reply
    • Charlie

      That’s what I’ve been trying to find out. I believe Lockhart (in the end) was a clone, and not actually the same Lockhart we watched from the beginning. Also, when he smiles and says “why would I ever want to go” he has teeth, and that phrase is so uncharacteristic of him, sort of something a brainwashed clone would say. This could also explain why, when Lockhart confronted the “doctor” in front of everyone, most of them got up like zombies. And surrounded him. Remember when Hannah was looking at lockharts body suspended in that green liquid, in the same room where Lockhart saw pembrooke’s body suspended in liquid? Also, pembrooke’s clone seemed to have teeth, whereas oembrooke had lost most of his teeth earlier in the film. Was a great movie, and really had me thinking. Am I the only one who thinks they were cloning the individuals as a way to cover up their mysterious disappearing?

      Reply
  5. Rosella

    @Keith. It was clear that his teeth had been replaced before that final grin. Re-watch the scene where Hannah gives him back the ballerina figurine and gives her disillusioned speech “You made me believe I could leave here one day,” and he replies smiling “Why would anyone want to leave”

    Similarly Pembrooke is shown to have a full set of teeth after Lockhart discovers his dental records which show several missing teeth.

    Clearly the teeth are dentures. Volmer does have a full time dentist/torturer on hand after all.

    I didn’t find the ending grin all that creepy myself. I think it was a grin of realization and relief. A scene near the end that also stands out to me is Volmer demanding of Lockhart “Have you ever loved anything in your life.” As justification for his heinous actions.

    I think Lockhart loves Hannah and will probably try to make a life with her.

    Reply
  6. Eagle

    Thanks for sharing your view. To me the meaning of the movie was quickly clear after the letter of Volmer was read at the beginning. It was confirmed by the last 30 seconds. This movie is just like Fight Club (and to a lesser extent, The Matrix) about ego destruction and the awakening such destruction brings. Lockhart (nomen et omen) enters with his mind full of shit that occupied his mind and leaves awakened with Hannah (which means grace). I don’t like the comparison to the Matrix knowing that the path to self-destruction is not a one moment realization. The Fight Club seems to me more realistic.

    Reply
  7. Desi

    Am I the only one that believes Hannah (the daughter) always wearing a light blue gown has some significance? To me, it is reminiscent of Wendy from Peter Pan; kind of an ode to never growing up.

    Reply
  8. Charlie

    Anyone else think the “doctor” was cloning his victims as a cover up for their awful deaths? I think the Lockhart we see in the end is a clone.

    Reply
    • Taher

      The teeth come back after he accepts and joins other “zombies” and Hanna gives the ballerina statuette back to him.
      But the last grin with that emphasis on the teeth is really confusing. At first I thought this is the Baron himself reincarnated (or a clone if you like). But that still doesn’t add up.

      Reply
      • Charlie

        I felt as if he wasn’t sure what the ballerina statuette’s significance was, he sort of looked at it blankly after she gave it back to him. I don’t know. Totally confusing, I hope they make a sequel or come out and answer it cause it’s bugging the crap out of me.

      • MP

        I agree with you 100% Taher! I think Volmer being disguised as Lockhart also explains his wide smile as it looks like a villain who got away with everything and the girl…so his plan has been delayed, not squashed. The entire movie feels like it is jerry-rigged from different films that can’t seem to fit together well but I suppose it worked, we are all talking about .

  9. Ashley

    The theory that I have is a little long winded.

    I believe that the grin was Lockhart’s eel brainwash. Even though he seems lucid at the end he still has some of that eel transfusion frugel blah blah blah crap. Which in some way is allowing him to see both the reality of the spa but his blurred reality as well. I think the corporation was taking the elixir at the end because of how forceful Mr Green was when telling Lockhart he was there for a reason and has a responsibility.
    What I don’t understand is why did the eels attack Volmer when they didn’t attack Hannah in the pool?
    Lastly, the eels were like a tapeworm inside the body forcing the dehydration and once they were in the chambers they were dehydrated and steamed up to produce this sweat that became the elixir, however how did the eels leave once pumped into the stomach? (#2’d their way out?)

    Reply
    • Lib

      I think the eels didn’t attack Hannah in the pool because somehow they “knew” that they weren’t supposed to. Volmer would want to make sure he had the upper hand in this human-eel symbiotic relationship, so he may have tweaked their genes so that they avoided devouring his bloodline??

      Reply
    • Lib

      Actually, a better possibility is that since Hannah had been ingesting the eel juice since conception (through her mother), it made her very immune to the eels. It’s not because of the bloodline, because Volmer himself got devoured by the eels at the end. I’m thinking about this too much!

      Reply
  10. Lib

    Out of all the ending scene theories it doesn’t seem like Theory 3 is plausible. Because
    1) that grin was WAY too creepy for a “I’m in love” grin
    2) the music right before it cuts off, with the violins violently getting high pitched, may imply something bad about to happen
    It’s a pretty open ending, but Lockhart really did seem a tad creepy, or at least different…and maybe not in a good way. So the other two theories sound possible.

    Reply
  11. Amanda

    Where did his followers come from? 200 years ago who took the elixer along with the main guy?
    The mom said her son wasn’t coming back, how could she know that.. and the visions?

    Reply
  12. Trev

    I also noticed something about the mother seeming to know about where he was going, and that he wasn’t coming back. I also believe there’s something more supernatural afoot, that Hannah at any rate, if not Volmer, are more akin to the eels than regular people. Perhaps as someone said, Lockhart and Hannah have something more in common. Two things I have yet to see mentioned, one of which connects to her being more than just human, Hannah and Lockhart have a conversation where she tells him she isn’t allowed to go swimming, and when she finally does, it finally induces her period, so it wasn’t just the liquid being made keeping her young. Second, and possibly connected, no one has brought up the almost pagan ritual at the end, the Poe styled ballroom of Prince Prospero, as they dance all the tenants are young again, question being when exactly and for how long. The palace burns, and all are elderly again amid the chaos. Dream or supernatural? You decide

    Reply
  13. Jess

    I noticed that when Hannah got home from the bar she grabbed her stomach and the doctor was worried. She then mentioned that her father would come for her. Did Hannah know what she was or did she believe she was a patient?

    Reply

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