“A Cure for Welness” by Gore Verbinski, is a hybrid of different genres, closed in a frame of a gothic movie. The director remixes different styles and references to legend of cinema, such as Kubrick, Sorrentino, or – last but not least – Scorsese to create a story that seems to be a dark version of a tale about a sleeping beauty and grotesque parable about life in the times of wild capitalism. In the opening scenes of the movie its director makes clear that we are dealing with a postmodern parable and that a titled cure must heal the bodies and minds of overambitious employees of huge and prestigious corporations whose vision of happiness is distorted by the cult of success.
Lockhart (very good Dane DeHaan), who is a young and hungry for success employee of a large corporation, is sent to the Swiss Alps to bring the head of his company back to New York. A simple mission turns into an impossible challenge. Pembroke (Harry Groener) went to the mountain sanatorium to rest from the challenges and rules of fast and furious modern world and has found in their internal peace and has experienced and illumination when realized that wellness is hidden far away from material fortune. The idyllic mysterious wellness center, located on the top of a hill and separated from the rest of the world is presented as stunning and scary at the same time. The picturesque landscapes contrast with a creepy portrait of the sanatorium’s patients – all dressed in white and make impression of being of never-ending trance. The director makes us sure that everything is too beautiful to be not only true, but also normal. It looks like patients’ minds and souls are occupied by some demonic forces that let them believe in the illusion of both – freedom and happiness. All people who live in the strange sanatorium have one thing in common – they are rich and lonely and have nobody in the outside world that would miss them or want them back in reality.
Lockhart is a young man, marked by the childhood trauma, who brings to the wellness sanctuary danger that always goes hand by hand with the arrival of stranger that sees things more clearly than members of the visited community. He will be the one to discover the dark and scary truth that is hidden from the rest of the patients, but at the same time he will become another object of experiments of the sanatorium’s director – Volver (very good Jason Isaacs), whose smile is as much shining as diabolic. The director of “A Cure for Wellness” uses the motif of childhood trauma to make his protagonist doubt in clearness of his own mind. His suspicions will be explained by doctors as products of suffering mind that cannot deal with ousted pictures from the past. The biggest challenge that Lockhart will have to face is telling the difference between reality and delusions and trusting his own intuition instead of listening to the so-called medical opinions of demonic doctors.
The movie is rather slow and the director doesn’t succumbs to the temptations of making the audience scared with spooks or ghost that could live in this old and cursed castle. “A Cure for Wellness” with no doubts is a horror movie, but the tension and terror is rather woven with delicate threads than made of effective tricks. Verbinski does not hurry with discovering horror secrets and revealing the diabolic nature of the sanatorium, but lets the audience get the taste of dreamlike atmosphere of the wellness centrum. We watch the presented world through the eyes of the protagonist who – after taking the titled cure – becomes more and more delusional and slowly loses the sense of difference between real horror and delusional images. Along with Lockhart, we discover claustrophobic corridors, terrifying rooms that which like places in which a mad scientist that has sold his soul to the devil was doing experimenting on human bodies to find a way of making life eternal. One of the biggest advantages of the entire movie is its audio-visual layer that his organised of as a representation of the protagonists hallucinations that are interleaved with pictures of horror and crimes that are really happening in the sanatorium. The structure of the entire narration is fulfilled with metaphors and allegories, one of the most beautiful once is a sleeping ballerina that dances only when dreaming – opening eyes means realizing that the real life is somewhere else. “A Cure for Wellness” is a good movie as both – existential horror and grotesque parable about capitalistic reality.