Wes Anderson’s Poison Ending Explained


Summary

  • The film “Poison” by Wes Anderson is a tense and fast-paced movie based on a short story by Roald Dahl, starring Dev Patel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley.
  • The most shocking reveal in the film is that there was no snake on Harry’s stomach, raising the question of whether there was ever a krait at all.
  • Ralph Fiennes’ character, Roald Dahl, adds depth to the film by providing insights into the story and raising questions about its inspiration.

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Recently, famed filmmaker Wes Anderson has dropped four new short films on Netflix, including a particularly tense and fast-paced movie called Poison. Based on a short story by Roald Dahl, Poison follows a man who is trapped under the weight of a poisonous snake, and must get quick and painstaking help from his friend and a local doctor. This newest addition to Wes Anderson’s filmography stars Dev Patel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley. It takes place in India during British rule.

Poison begins when Dev Patel’s character, Timber Woods, arrives at his friend, Harry Pope’s, house. When he enters, he finds Harry in a strange state, and soon discovers that the man has a krait, or a poisonous snake, resting on his stomach, keeping him from moving or speaking loudly. Woods calls a local doctor, Dr. Ganderbai, to help remove the snake. The trio work in incredibly quick and intense conditions to remove the snake, including giving Harry antivenom and soaking his mattress in chloroform to anesthetize the snake. However, in the final act of the short film, the story takes an unexpected turn.

Related: 10 Roald Dahl Stories Wes Anderson Should Adapt After His Netflix Shorts


There Is No Krait On Harry Pope At The End Of Poison

Poison Wes Anderson

The most shocking reveal in Wes Anderson’s Poison is that there was no krait at the end of the film. After soaking the bed in chloroform, Woods and Ganderbai decide to slowly pull back the sheets that Harry lays under, hoping to find the snake unconscious. They do this slowly and meticulously, and Woods notices the richness of Harry’s pajamas, noting how people think of such frivolous things when in high stakes situations. However, ultimately, when the men pull back the sheet, they find no snake at all. When Harry quickly jumps up, it is fully confirmed that he has no snake on his stomach, or anywhere on his body.

This revelation should be relieving, but instead, it only raises the stakes further. Mostly, this is because the situation brings up the question: was there ever a krait at all? When Ganderbai asks Harry if he could have been dreaming, this question becomes even more prevalent. Of course, in the end, the film does not offer a clear answer on whether Harry actually had a krait on his belly, but it seems likely that the answer could be no. Perhaps Harry dreamed the snake, yet his imagining permeated his reality. Additionally, the krait could have existed but slithered off during Harry’s panic.

Who Was Ralph Fiennes’ Character In Poison?

Ralph Fiennes Poison

Though Poison mainly focuses on three characters, Harry Pope, Timber Woods, and Dr. Ganderbai, there is a fourth character in the film played by Ralph Fiennes. This character is Roald Dahl, the original author of Poison. Despite appearing only twice in the film, Dahl offers some brief insights into the story. First, he goes into further detail on kraits, explaining that they are slim creatures that hold a lot of power, and may even bleed black blood. Then, he ends the film by reading out the last line, “Dr. Ganderbai started the engine and drove off.”

The inclusion of Ralph Fiennes’ character Roald Dahl in Poison is an interesting choice. Dahl’s scenes could arguably take away from the story, by pulling the audience away from the tense situation happening at Harry Pope’s house, however, this doesn’t necessarily happen. If anything, Dahl’s moments add to the film by making it three-dimensional. With Dahl there, Poison is not just about Timber Woods and Harry Pope, but it is about the story as a whole. It raises questions about why Dahl wrote the story and where his inspiration came from. His inclusion deepens the short film and makes audiences think more critically about what they’re watching.

What Happened To Timber Woods’ Head?

Dev Patel Poison-1

A brief yet important aspect of Poison is Timber Woods and the scar on his head. Though Poison is a short story that only spans the space of a single night, it leaves many clues about the greater story at hand, and Woods’ scar is an example of this. Throughout most of the story, Woods remains on-screen with a faded, jagged scar on his forehead visible. However, when Ganderbai is pouring the chloroform under Harry’s sheets, Woods seems to have a small flashback to a time when he received medical attention. Visually, Woods appears with a bloody scratch on his forehead, while he describes the familiar scent of chloroform.

This miniscule moment most likely points to a trauma that Woods faced before the events of Poison. Considering that Woods is a soldier, as evidenced by his outfit, it seems likely that he earned this scar in some sort of battle. Additionally, his visceral reaction to the chloroform shows that earning that scar is a bad memory for him. Another important detail that adds to Woods’ characterization is the note that comes at the end of the film, which acknowledges that Roald Dahl named Woods after an RAF pilot killed during the Battle of Athens. This shows that Woods may have a much deeper story than Poison lets on.

Harry’s Attack On Dr. Ganderbai Explained

Ben Kingsley Poison

After it is revealed that there is no krait on Harry’s stomach, a brief conflict ensues between Harry and Dr. Ganderbai. When Harry stands up on the bed, Ganderbai asks if perhaps Harry dreamed the snake. Though he didn’t mean the question to be teasing, Harry took it that way, and began yelling at Ganderbai. Harry’s verbal attack was harsh and racially motivated. While this attack may seem out of character for the rest of the film, it is actually a pivotal moment that shows the world that Poison takes place in. It hints at the difficult realities of British-ruled India, and the bias Harry holds, despite receiving Ganderbai’s help.

How Poison Is Different From Roald Dahl’s Story

Roald Dahl Biopic Starring Hugh Bonneville

Although Poison is a fairly close representation of Roald Dahl’s story, there is one key difference: the ending. In the final moments of the written story, Ganderbai leaves Harry’s house and Woods follows him. Woods apologizes for Harry’s behavior and Ganderbai responds by saying that the chloroform is to blame for Harry’s behavior and that the man just needs a long holiday. This somewhat dismissive reply is nowhere to be found in Wes Anderson’s short film. Instead, Woods apologizes for Harry and tries to convince Ganderbai that he saved his life. Ganderbai responds coldly though, and tells Woods that he can’t be sorry.

So, what was the point of changing this ending, and what do Ganderbai’s final words mean? First and foremost, it seems likely that Anderson changed the ending the Poison to reflect a different kind of reaction to racist behavior. Because Poison was written in 1950, it made sense that Ganderbai would excuse Harry’s words. However, to reflect more modern customs, Anderson showed Ganderbai being reasonably upset by the situation. Furthermore, Ganderbai telling Woods that he couldn’t be sorry seems to be a hint that Woods, being Indian himself, can’t apologize for Harry or be apologetic for him because he is just as under threat of racism as Ganderbai is.

The Real Meaning Of Poison

Benedict Cumberbatch in Wes Anderson's Poison

Wes Anderson’s Poison is a story that is short but impactful, and with the barest hints, gives a peek into a much broader and dangerous world. Although the film centers on Harry’s issue with the krait, in reality, the movie is showing the hierarchy between the three men. Despite the fact that Ganderbai is helping Harry, he is still the one who is yelled at by the end of the film. Additionally, Harry’s fictitious krait points to his own mental health conditions as a result of being a soldier. Overall, Poison is really about the tense dynamics of British-ruled India.



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