The Wasteland Ending Explained: Is the beast real?


The Wasteland Plot Synopsis

This unusual thriller exiles audiences to the 19th Century Spanish wilderness and unlikely home of young Diego (Asier Flores) and devoted parents Salvator (Roberto Álamo) and Lucía (Inma Cuesta), whose cozy existence is threatened by a monster all the more dangerous for its incorporeality.

Diego faces his fears and becomes a man but must first accept the impossibility of avoiding pain and loss throughout life.

These are some tantalizing questions that The Wasteland’s dramatic ending leaves audiences to ponder. But while the film is intentionally ambiguous, there are enough clues scattered throughout to piece together what really went on.

So what happened to Salvator?

Regarding this first question, we can assume that Diego’s Papa Salvator died, leaving his wife and son to face the beast alone.

After he leaves the apparent safety of the wasteland and ventures across war-torn Spain, Diego and Lucia anxiously await Salvator’s return. But their hope begins to fade with each day that passes- until Salvator’s horse returns to them, carrying an empty gun.

This confirms their fears, as it’s assumed Salvator could not survive without what were his only protections against violence and death.

For the remainder of the film we see Lucia’s grief over her husband manifest as a deep depression, increasing loss of touch with reality, and emergence of violent and destructive tendencies that threaten to sever the bond between herself and Diego.

This bond is important because it seems to hold the only key to defeating the beast as it draws ever closer.

Is the beast just symbolic?

Before he left, Salvator warned Diego that this monster feeds on the vulnerable and gains strength through fear. We literally see Diego conjure its presence from nowhere when he experiences terror. And as the film escalates, Diego realizes his greatest fear is to lose his mother, through either death or self-destructive madness.

This parallel between the beast and fear itself strongly hints that the monster may be a symbolic rather than literal beast.

One hint is the fact that that Lucia did not believe in the beast initially but began seeing it after her biggest fear- the loss of her husband and inability to protect her son- became a reality.

Additionally, Diego and Lucia do not face the beast together, perhaps because they have different fears and perceptions of danger. In certain scenes this difference alienates them from each other, such as a scene in which Lucia fires a round from her shotgun into the wilderness.

Diego cannot see the beast Lucia claims to have witnessed, which causes him to doubt and lose faith in his mother.

Is there evidence to suggest the beast is real?

The loss of innocence is another key theme the beast represents. We know that Diego has been sheltered from the dangers of the wider world for his whole life, relying on his parents for safety and never leaving the boundaries of his childhood home.

This is encouraged by Lucia, who interrupts Salvator’s attempts to teach independence and self-protection (for example, encouraging Diego to kill a rabbit) when she feels her son may be frightened.

But Lucia’s method of protecting her family through sheltering them and avoiding all threats and fears is her downfall, as she is unprepared to face danger when finally confronted by it.

When Diego’s anxieties over his mother culminate with the beast appearing as a fully formed monster, he does not run or hide. Instead, Diego confronts the beast, moving towards it unflinchingly until the monster retreats. Finally Diego destroys the illusion of safety by setting his home ablaze.

We can conclude that the monster, impervious to bullets and defeated only by bravery, was to some created or exaggerated by Diego’s mind.

From this perspective then, the showdown between Diego and the beast might represent the boy’s need to face his fears, grow up without relying on his parents’ protection, and accept that pain and suffering cannot be avoided- without being consumed by this knowledge like Lucia.

Is Lucia definitely dead?

And as for Lucia’s fate, her cause of death is not explicitly shown. But the aftermath, which shows the character lying in a pool of blood and holding a knife, obviously suggests Lucia was driven to suicide as foreshadowed by Salvator’s story.

She becomes weak from blood loss and becomes unresponsive and still as Diego drags her from the wreckage. By the time they reach a river, Diego has given up saving his mother. He ultimately says goodbye and allows Lucia’s body to float away.

Letting his mother go was Diego’s final step in growing up. By the film’s end he has come to terms with loss, accepted his own mortality, and suffered literal and metaphorical scars just like his father. The very final scene shows Diego finally venturing beyond the wasteland toward the horizon’s new dawn.


Read More: The Wasteland Movie Review

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