The Hippopotamus Closed Box Ending Explained

The Hippopotamus Closed Box Ending Explained - there is so much here worth talking about, and so much to unpack.
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Closed box films are some of the greatest movie types of all time. THERE I SAID IT OK?!?!? YOU MADE ME SAY IT… SO I DID. ALRIGHT?? Gah. They are literally better than any summer action blockbuster. (WE HAVE A WITCH!!! BURN HIM! (a male witch isn’t a witch guys… it’s a warlock.)) Seriously, a low budget indie film, that is closed box in nature, should invariably provide an infinitely more enjoyable experience solely through the constrained proportions of the film. (I don’t even understand what he’s babbling about. We really should just burn him at the stake.) Why? Mainly because it requires the movie creators to focus on what matters most, the script. It forces the director and the 12 people working on this little film to focus on the underpinning idea, the characters, and the story. Too often, filmmakers love to confetti in explosions, and irrelevant glitz, to the detriment of the things that really matter. But today, Hippopotamus, will help us prove this maxim out for us. It’s a film that eschews annoying distractions and just goes for the mindjob jugular. Can’t wait to get after this one with you – Hippopotamus’ Closed Box Ending Explained!!

First. This film isn’t the National Geographic thing. Just stop. It also isn’t the Stephen Fry Hippopotamus film. This Hippopotamus is the 2018 British intense psychological mindjob of a film…not the African Animal Game Park film. Or what have you. Haven’t seen this one, and are interested? You can check it out right here at one of the online streaming services below:

Alright – let’s get to it. Time’s a-wastin’! But trust me, you do not want to continue further down this movie discussion without having already seen this crazy movie.

Hippopotamus Movie Walkthrough

The movie kicks off slowly. A white room. A young woman named Ruby (played by Ingvild Deila – best known for her turn as a younger Princess Leia in Rogue One), with injured knees. Injured head. She’s trapped? Captured? It’s pretty much unclear. And as she has no idea who she is, or what she is doing here, she isn’t much help figuring this riddle out either. But her captor tells her that he has abducted her until she’s able to fall in love with him. And as time goes on she eventually asks for a pillow, a blanket, a book. When he brings her the book she begins remember small snippets. But nothing significant. Eventually, when her captor – who we eventually learn is named Tom (played by Stuart Mortimer) – begins to think that she might be trying to break out of her captivity, he gives her drugs and the whole scenario resets.

Like literally, back to the beginning. Ruby, on the floor, knees bandaged. Head bandaged. She remembers none of her previous interactions with Tom. And we get this sense that Tom has done this reset with Ruby many many times before. His voice has the boring inflection of someone asked to recite a nursery rhyme a million times too many when he tells her that he has abducted her in order to get her to fall in love with him. But this time, Ruby finds some of her own writing in a book that Tom brings to her. It can only be read in a mirror, but it simply says, “don’t trust him.” (Yes, your Memento flashbacks are 100% relevant.)

When the two of them have dinner together, Ruby escalates things by accusing Tom of having done this with many other women. (Uh – Helsinki Syndrome anyone?) HAVE YOU ABDUCTED AND ABUSED ANYONE OTHER THAN ME?!?!? I WANT TO BE THE ONLY ONE! Wait, what? hahaha. What is going on here? Soon after, Ruby realizes that her knees are fine, and begins her own Rambo-esque PT training to learn how to walk and run again. She also remembers Tom talking with her at a door when he hits her with a syringe of some sort.

The Hippopotamus Closed Box Ending Explained - there is so much here worth talking about, and so much to unpack.

The Current Theories About Hippopotamus

Let’s stop right here and talk about what could possibly happening. When I first started this film, I stopped just because I assumed one thing, and I was wrong 4 times removed.

Literal-Theory-#1: The most literal theory possible at this point is that Ruby was abducted in order to get her to fall in love with Tom. I mean, it literally is what we’ve been told. But since when do I bring you movies that play it straight? (yeah, crib sheet says, nope, never.) But, could it possibly be that the movie will feint from here towards him being a maniacal rapist (see theory #2) and then back again.

The-Maniacal-Theory-#2: But what if he’s just a freak-show rapist? I mean, how is theory #1 him not being a freak-show rapist? The inclusion of the word love? I don’t know. So maybe theory one and theory two are the same theory but one has a Phantom of the Opera thing going for it, and one where he just is just putting up a show? Um. Nah, they are the same. Theory 1 & 2, they’re literally the same.

But-What-About-#3: At this point, I knew there had to be a third (or second) theory out there. But I wasn’t sure what. Tom and Ruby knew each other prior to his kidnapping her. We know that. Ruby has seen her abductor in her memories, what few memories she has. Could it be that they have a past of some sort? Could it be a 10×10 scenario (I’m not going to explain that theory because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it – but do. Go see it. If you enjoyed this movie, you HAVE to check it out.) Or, maybe…what if Ruby is the aggressor??! Hrmmmm. There seems to be a lot of interesting possibilities going down this direction.

Hippopotamus Walkthrough Continued

Ruby realizes that she has been playing this game for a very very long time. She strategized to get Tom to light a candle, and steals the matchstick so she has a makeshift pencil to use for writing in her book. But she finds hundreds and hundreds of these matchsticks and immediately understands that Tom has been playing at these date nights for forever. But she is also having “Flashbulb memories” – the name of which was graciously provided by Tom. Why does he know that? Why does he care? Wouldn’t a memory flaw protect him from Ruby ultimately – yes, if we are running theory 1, or theory 2 (let’s just call it theory 12 at this point!) If he cares enough to study her issues, to learn about how to fan her minor memories, maybe something else is going on? Or!? IS HE PLANTING THESE MEMORIES. They have repeatedly played at this game for so long, could it be he’s attempting to form FAKE memories in order to manipulate Ruby into thinking they have a past? HRMMM.

He tells her stories about their anniversary dinner. About dates. About their dancing together. And then he tells her about one night in particular wherein Ruby was hit on by her flatmate Rob, and raped. Tom arrives in the middle of the attack, and murders him. Dead. Uh. OK. So now Tom is a murderer (well, in America he would have easily gotten off – but apparently in England?? We’ll talk about that later.) Which means, that Tom believes his only chance to spend his life with Ruby is by tossing her in his trunk and finding an abandoned farmhouse to live life in. And maybe, just maybe, Tom will be able to resolve her retrograde amnesia through repetitive therapy. Or, that’s just his story. Hrmm. And that is how this so/so movie goes from so/so to über-clever. And we also learn that whenever Ruby sleeps too long, her amnesia washes away her memories forever. But Tom is trying to manipulate her sleeping in order to play her memories as much as possible.

The End of Hippopotamus Explained

Now. As we barrel into the conclusion of the film everything goes topsy turvy. She wrote in her book that she should play along. So her guiding order to herself is to manipulate Tom, play along, and to do what he wants. So, she lets him know that they are all good. And as soon as Tom thinks that he has finally “fixed” Ruby, they have sex, and then Ruby takes a shard of the mirror and begins attacking him with it, with a fury. And then, Ruby leaves the abandoned farm, looks for the rowboat, and passes out.

Cut to – a hospital room. Ruby is in a hospital bed. The doctor lets her know that the surgery was a success. And the doctor says, “I’ll let you boyfriend know…” He walks out of the room, and the doctor, Tom, stares into the camera, and cut to, black. Roll credits. WAIT WHAT??!

The Hippopotamus Closed Box Ending Explained - there is so much here worth talking about, and so much to unpack.

So here we are. We can only assume that Tom was not killed by Ruby, he made it out to her, recovered her… and managed to, somehow, build her lockup into a hospital room. And we are left with Tom staring into the screen at the end. But what does it mean?

Hippopotamus Ending Theory #1 – The most literal possibility is that Tom has been lying to her all along and has been manipulating her from the beginning. I mean, what else does that look into the camera mean? Tom has been forcing fake memories into her head wherein he makes her think that they dated, she was attacked, and he is her savior. And he managed to survive her attack, he’ll fold his scars from her attack into her attack by her flatmate, and we now know that he is just working overtime to manipulate her opinion of him. He’s bending her into his will with one repetition after another.

Hippopotamus Ending Theory #2 – Look. If you were madly in love with the lady of your dreams, and she was attacked, beaten, raped, and all you wanted for her was to remember you? Wouldn’t it play out something like this? He is giving her space to remember. He’s allowing her brain to heal. She is slowly remembering and maybe in time she will come to love him again. After a year or two, she then attacks him, and almost kills him. She faints, almost dies in the water, and he brings her back. And after all that, he reintroduces her to her captivity with a different back story now – only in the hope of ultimately…one day…to have her fall in love with him again. All of her own free will… all in her own time. Now, saying all that, wouldn’t you stare at the wall like you were a maniac if you had just suffered a setback like he just did? Wouldn’t you??!?

Final Thoughts on the Movie Hippopotamus

I think this might be the first movie where I don’t have an opinion as to which one is correct. I have to say, I was pretty bored with how things were going, and disappointed with the movie over all… UNTIL THAT LOST SHOT. And that is when it all snapped together for me. And I went from, nah, I’m not writing about it to – yup. One thousand percent, I am totally writing about it. And this is why. This last shot. This last moment that throws everything into chaos so perfectly. Did he manipulate her for his own ends? Or is it a loving boyfriend doing his best to resurrect Ruby from the dead? OR! BETTER YET!! Is he telling the truth, they do have a past, but even so, he is abusing her for his own ends and he might as well be the maniacal rapist, hell bent on holding on to what they had together?? To be honest, that is probably where I’ll land on this one. He is telling her the truth. He is wanting the past back, but Ruby is well within her rights to kill him where he stands solely because he isn’t even considering where she is now. The Ruby with PTSD from the original rape. The Ruby that has suffered more indignation by her perpetual lockup from her “well intentioned” boyfriend.

So which is it? Is Tom horrible? Or is Tom the angel in this situation? Go ahead… you call it in the comments. I want to know what you guys are thinking. Such a clever right hook there at the end.

Interested in other movies like this one? I’ve got a couple for you right here:


Edited by: CY