Unwell in a Kafka World: A Cure for Wellness

DATELINE:  Not exactly Obamacare

Dane DeHaan

You have to admit that actor Dane DeHaan usually chooses the most peculiar films and roles available to young stars.

In this movie, A Cure for Wellness, he manages to look rather unwell, doughy, and pooped out. That surely goes against the grain of buff, health-addicted, superheroes among his generation of leading men.

Director Gore Verbinski’s Kafkaesque tale is creepy enough for horror, surreality, and German expressionism, rolled into one hyper-barbaric chamber for eels.

A young executive of a billion-dollar corporation is sent to retrieve its CEO from this strange Swiss clinic where clients go to take “the waters,” a cure for what ails you. It’s either that or go to jail for white-collar crime.

Like clockwork, DeHaan’s Lockhart arrives at a Swiss mountaintop roach motel where people check in, but never apparently check out.  Instead, they are put through a health regimen worthy of Tom Brady’s personal trainer.

Jason Isaacs as Volmer runs the place like the reincarnation of a mad Teutonic baron two centuries ago. He will kill you with kindness.

The cure is worse than the illness—but DeHaan seems more than willing to stick around. We’d be suspicious the moment they kept insisting you drink the water. And, alas, your cell phone won’t work in this altitude.

The hydrotherapy seems a bit on the extreme side, but sado-masochism never had it so healthy.

The atmosphere is suitably Germanic, if not germ-free. We are told that Adolph Hitler was at the spa location, Castle Hohenzollern, for a cure during World War I. How fitting, indeed. It makes Last Year at Marienbad a pleasant stroll.

The film is not for dummies, and one of the attendants is reading a Thomas Mann novel about a health spa where people are convinced they need treatment, whether true or not.

If there is a drawback to this movie, it can be found in the length of the film. We have grown unaccustomed to movies pushing two & a half hours, which is a sure sign they are considered “important” by the makers. There is apparently no cure for this.

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