Nocebo Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Analysis of the thriller Nocebo (2022): ash, tick, bird and other frightening symbols. Nocebo plot analysis, description, ending explanation, meaning, similar thrillers.

Country: UK, Ireland, Philippines

Genre: thriller, horror

Year of production: 2022

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Cast: Eva Green, Chai Fonacieux, Mark Strong, Billy Gadsdon

tagline: “More than just a curse”

The meaning of the film Nocebo, despite the emphasis on mysticism and not at all epic scope (the film shows the story of two families), turns out to be connected with criticism of the modern capitalist system – all because of the plot twist in the finale.

The plot of the movie Nocebo

The main character Christine lives with her husband and daughter in a luxurious mansion in the center of London and is engaged in fashion design. One day she receives a message on the phone about a certain tragedy, the victims of which were people. Immediately Christine sees in front of her a shabby blind dog covered in ticks. The dog approaches her and scatters insects around the room. It seems to be a vision and it passes. But one of the ticks digs into Christine’s neck.

Eva GreenEva Green as Kristin, Mark Strong played the role of Kristin’s husband, Felix. Frame from the film.

Eight months later, we again see the heroine surrounded by her family. Now she is sick: sleeping with an oxygen mask, suffering from nervous tremors and memory lapses. Kristin is on medication that temporarily relieves her symptoms. She also seems to be superstitious: before a business meeting, she takes red shoes and whispers “Wonder shoes help me – bring me good luck.”

The heroine gets hope to develop a clothing line for a new production (the woman found the previous manufacturing organization herself, but, probably, as a result of the tragedy, it was destroyed). Suddenly, after a telephone conversation in the kitchen, a spoon falls to the floor and a girl appears on the threshold. Her name is Dayana and she comes from the Philippines. The girl says that Christine hired her as a servant. The fashion designer herself does not remember this, but writes it off for memory lapses.

Diana settles in a mansion. She remembers the birth of her child. Christine has the same memories of her daughter. In the room given to her, Dayana finds a tick and, whispering some words, makes him climb into a matchbox.

Christine’s husband Felix is ​​against the settlement of the maid, the couple quarrel.

Diana is cooking dinner. While cooking, she silences the caged bird. Dinner is to the taste of the hosts, but in the midst of the meal, Christine overtakes a sudden attack. Dayana eliminates him with the laying on of hands and tickling.

A maid inspects the evidence of Christine’s professional accomplishments. Among them is a newspaper clipping where the fashion designer is photographed with a Filipino girl – as we later learn, Dayana’s daughter.

Fonacie teaThe role of Dayana was played by Chai Fonassier, Still from the film.

Before going to bed, the maid takes a newspaper with ashes previously poured from the fireplace and puts it at the entrance to her room. Lying in bed, she hears rustling and a child’s voice saying “I’m next to you.” In the morning, Christine’s daughter Roberta (or Bobs – a diminutive name) sees children’s footprints on the ashes and leaves hers nearby.

Diana’s helpfulness becomes intrusive. As he brings breakfast to bed, he asks Christine if she makes her own clothes. The fashion designer replies that little men do it for her. But when asked who it is, the woman prefers not to answer.

Christine is getting sick again. Diane promises to help, but you need to completely trust her. The girl performs the ritual of fumigation with smoke and purification with water. She tells how she got her amazing abilities. Once an old woman wandered into their village, who turned out to be an ongo – a supernatural creature with great power. The legend says that when it dies, you cannot be near, otherwise the ongo’s soul will move into you. This is what happened to Diana. Ongo, in the form of a chick, jumped out of the body of the old woman and jumped into the girl. Since then, Dayana began to understand plants, animals, stones and water, she began to feel that someone was directing her. She became a healer, people turned to her for help.

Dayana continues her rituals, which, according to her, should cure Christine – you just need to believe. She smears the woman with mud, takes her blood, cuts off her nails and hair, burns them and reads conspiracies.

One day, Bobs saw Diana flying, told her father, but he did not believe.

In parallel, we are told the story of the life of a Filipina – about how she met her husband, how they had to take their daughter Anina and flee in the middle of the night from the village, which was burned by the enemies. Circumstances forced Dayana to quit witchcraft, part with her husband, leave with Anina for another city and get a job there at a clothing factory.

Billy GadsdonBobs was played by Billy Gadsdon. Frame from the film.

Christine discovers that her medications are gone. Dayan assures that the woman was going to throw them away and again urges her to fully trust.

Christine hears a child’s voice and has a vision of a fire. Felix tells Diana that the cause of his wife’s illness and similar visions is repressed guilt. He asks the Filipina to “get out of her head” Christine, but she says she will do it because she wants to help. After a heavy conversation, Felix leaves Diana’s room on the stairs and runs into a distraught bird. As a result of the skirmish, the bird dies. A tick crawls out of it.

Bobs buries the bird and expresses regret at being left alone. Dayana offers the girl her friendship. She shows her her ability to control birds.

During the next ritual, Christine again has terrible visions. And again, Diana helps to cope with them.

Felix enters Diana’s room while she is away and discovers Christine’s hidden medicines in it. This causes the expulsion of the Filipina. Before leaving, she releases a tick from a matchbox and invites Bobs to do something that will help her be with her forever.

Christine’s condition worsens. At night, she sees a giant tick crawling over her, but she cannot move. The nightmare is repeated several times. In the morning, a place on the neck, once bitten by a small tick, bleeds.

Bobs cheats on his mother. She says that it wasn’t Diane who actually hid the missing pills, but Felix. The couple are arguing. Felix, leaving for another room, sees the distraught bird again and falls down the stairs. He is taken to the hospital.

filipina ritualsFrame from the film.

Kristin and her daughter come to the presentation of a line of children’s clothing designed by her. But the heroine is again tormented by a vision in which the faces of those around her are covered with terrible blisters and the same dog appears. It seems that Dayana was the reason for this – we are shown how she is playing the xylophone at this time.

Dayana returns and continues to “treat” Kristin. She feeds her with ashes, circles the room and casts spells. Diane also forces Christine to work on the sewing machine by the sweat of her brow.

We learn that the Filipina herself did the same in the clothing factory. She worked in extremely difficult conditions, and at this time her daughter sat under her desk, because there was no one to leave the child with. It turns out that this factory produced clothes designed by Christine. And she even came there to control the process. The fashion designer did not pay attention to the difficult conditions, on the contrary, she ordered to work harder. At her request, the door to the workshop was locked so that the workers could leave only with the permission of the overseer and did not try to steal the goods. At the factory, Kristin took a picture with her daughter Diana – it was this picture that the Filipina saw in a newspaper clipping. Soon, due to a fan failure, a fire breaks out in the workshop. Because of the locked door, people did not manage to get out, and they burned down. Anina was among the dead. It is this picture that Diane makes Christine see and feel.

The audience is shown one more detail: the dog that the heroine saw at the beginning was actually near the fire.

Dayana says that Christine is a tick, an insatiable parasite that sucks all the juices out of simple hard workers. The Filipina makes it clear that revenge is happening: the fashion designer caused the death of Anina – for this, Ongo will take her daughter. Kristin asks for forgiveness, but to no avail: she is burned alive. Returning Felix sees that only ashes and surviving legs in happy red shoes are left of her.

fire in the buildingFrame from the film.

Diane makes good on her promise to stay with Bobs. She jumps off the roof and dies. A chick crawls out of her body and jumps into the girl’s mouth. Dayana’s shadow appears in front of her husband, thanks for the happy moments and says goodbye. Her footprints remain in the sand.

At the end, we see Bobs tinkering with plants in the forest, just like Diane did. She sees the face of a Filipina among the trees, just as she saw the face of an old woman in her childhood.

Nocebo Ending explanation

So, at the end of Nocebo, it turned out that Diana was not originally going to treat Christine. Everything she did was part of revenge. And the disease itself was caused by her. The technology is not clear (the explanation is limited to witchcraft and superpowers that arose thanks to the ongo creature living in Dayan), but the Filipina managed to infect Christine with the help of a vision of a dog and ticks.

But why a mangy dog ​​and ticks? What is the meaning of these images? The dog probably personifies the oppressed impoverished working people, forced to eat crumbs from the table of rich owners.

The meaning of the vision of the tick is explained by Dayana herself: it is a symbol of the rich bloodsucker, which is Christine. She does not care about the suffering of ordinary people. For the sake of fulfilling her desires and earning money, she is ready to go to the deterioration of their working conditions, without thinking about the consequences. The idea is that Christine has to suffer, figuratively speaking, from her own methods.

What is the meaning of the ritual with the ashes? It seems that for Dayana it was a way to communicate with her dead daughter – her husband used sand for a similar purpose. In addition, in the cultures of different peoples, ashes are often used for witchcraft – including to shorten the life of one’s enemy. Diana fed them to Kristin, probably for the same purpose.

scary tickFrame from the film.

Why did Diana commit suicide? Obviously, after the death of her daughter, life seemed meaningless to her. Only one thing kept him in this world – the thirst for revenge. When it was possible to carry it out, the Filipina lost her life. However, this is not entirely suicide. From childhood, two entities lived in Dayan: human and ongo, and the latter passed into the body of Bobs.

Thus, the meaning of the ending of the film Nocebo is as follows: the audience received a clue to Christine’s mystical illness and Dayana’s strange actions. Them on target for revenge. The authors did not give a detailed interpretation of the rituals of the Filipina, but there is no special hidden meaning in their content – everything comes from popular superstitions. And immersion in Philippine folklore and analysis of the historical context in the film Nocebo is clearly not expected.

The meaning of the film Nocebo

Nocebo is a drug that has no real pharmacological effect, but which has a negative effect on the patient due to his self-hypnosis (similar to placebo, which also has a positive effect due to psychology). Perhaps it cannot be said that Christine’s “treatment” was such. Still, we were shown the presence of serious supernatural abilities in Diane, which she successfully used to harm her mistress.

The description of what is happening poorly fits the definition of self-hypnosis. Perhaps the authors wanted to say that without Christina’s guilt for the fire that happened, Dayana’s manipulations would not have worked.

One way or another, the explanation of the ending takes the moral of the picture Nocebo in a completely different direction. The point of the film suddenly becomes quite clear: rich people oppress the poor, live in luxury at the expense of their hard work, turn a blind eye to their misfortunes, and must pay the price. It cannot be said that such a transition from mysticism with pagan roots and signs in the spirit of “a spoon fell – a woman came into the house” to an almost political manifesto, the creators of Nocebo carried out meticulously. But the final twist, perhaps, they succeeded.

Filipino DayanaFrame from the film.

Similar films

  • The Skeleton Key (USA, Germany, 2005): a scary story about how the power of faith can play a cruel joke;
  • Servant (USA, since 2019): a wealthy family hires a servant to care for a dead child – a horror series from M. Night Shyamalan;
  • The Guest (USA, UK, 2014): a dangerous stranger appears in the family, posing as a comrade of his son who died in the war.

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