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. IMDB
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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.


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?