Have you ever watched a film and finished it thinking “damn, what on earth did I just watch?”
Of course you have.
Why are we so confident about that? Well, because you just watched Claudia Llosa’s Fever Dream.
Netflix has delivered a number of headscratchers over the years, from Annihilation to I’m Thinking of Ending Things. However, the latest arrived on Wednesday, October 13th, serving as an adaptation of Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 novel of the same name.
She actually co-wrote the screenplay with the director, and like the book, the movie leaves audiences with a lot to digest. It’s certainly not the most accessible film to hit the platform this year, but it’s arguably one of the most fascinating.
So, rather than shrug it off once the credits roll, it’s worth making an attempt to better understand what you’ve just witnessed. With this in mind, let’s get the Fever Dream ending explained. But first, context is key…
Diving deep into Fever Dream
The viewer is plunged into this mysterious tale courtesy of a sequence depicting Amanda in conversation with a young boy named David, who begins to help her navigate what has transpired over the preceding month.
We then flit forwards and backward as the story evolves from Amanda and her daughter’s arrival to the mother’s stay in hospital.
Amanda first begins spending time with her new neighbour Carola before her husband is due to arrive. It’s established that Carola has a son – David – who has a past that’s better described as utterly bizarre.
At the age of three, he was poisoned and Carola requested the aid of a spiritual healer from the Green House. Attempting to save the boy, she halved David’s soul and he miraculously survived. However, his mother has since been under suspicion that he’s now evil.
Sequences show us that both Amanda and Nina have developed a bond with the boy, with Amanda feeling that Carola has it all wrong about her son.
Nevertheless, Amanda is compelled to revise her evaluation when she finds David in their home one night. Freaked out, she hits the road with her daughter before turning back for feeling guilty about abandoning Carola somewhat.
Fever Dream ending explained
In a surreal twist, David enlightens Amanda by arguing that this twisted tale has been lived out again and again, but Amanda hasn’t understood what it all means.
Down the line, it’s revealed that Amanda visits Carola’s farm with Nina and they drink water that has been poisoned with pesticides; remember, David was poisoned, hinting at a connection.
The mother-daughter duo attempt to flee for assistance but are suddenly plagued by a vision of children.
As highlighted by The Cinemaholic, the film’s title is likely an allusion to Amanda’s conversations with David, which are essentially taking place in the interior of her mind. A fever dream brought on by the pesticides deteriorating her health.
The townspeople have fallen prey to the pesticides used by farmers that have leaked into their water supplies. In the end, the movie can be interpreted as a cautionary and imperative tale about environmental threats and the potential consequences of avoiding a duty of care.
David feels Amanda is still missing something, and it’s likely that this is because she’s too focused on the past when she should arguably be thinking of the future.
Sadly, it’s confirmed that Amanda dies but Nina, like David, has been taken to the Green House to meet the same fate as her son.
In the wake of her death, her husband discovers that Carola is gone. However, when he leaves we see David in his car holding one of Nina’s toys, who we already know has been exhibiting odd behavior after the soul-splitting.
The audience is led to believe that Nina and David are now one, or rather, an extension of one another. Half of David’s soul residing inside of her and vice versa.
“I felt an immediate emotional connection”
While in conversation with ScreenRant the director opened up about her first encounter with the novel:
“I remember reading Fever Dream and having an almost physical reaction that was so strong and piercing. I felt an immediate emotional connection and desire to make it a film. This had never happened to me before, and I didn’t read the novel with the intention of finding material to adapt.”
She added: “For me, it was a discovery in every sense of the word.”
Fever Dream is now streaming on Netflix.