The Hypnosis: An Entrancing Comedy
What if you started to act without a social filter? This is what the audience is being asked in The Hypnosis (Hypnosen), a biting satire directed by Swedish debutant Ernst De Geer, which reflects on the world’s contemporary phenomena, in particular the constant pressure for professional achievement and the forced social role-playing associated with it, which makes us suppress our real selves, alienate ourselves from the surroundings, and dissolve our individuality into uniformity.
Produced by the experienced Mimmi Spång, the film was screened in the Main Competition at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this year. In a diverse section of eleven titles selected from across the entire world, The Hypnosis stood out for several valuable reasons, which make it a distinctive, complex and memorable work.
The screenplay, written by Ernst De Geer (*1989), a talented native of Stockholm, with his former classmate from The Norwegian Film School, Mads Stegger, presents the peculiar story of a couple, André (Herbert Nordrum) and Vera (Asta Kamma August), who are trying to launch their business plan for a mobile app that focuses on women’s reproductive health. Before presenting their pitch to potential investors, they go through an intensive training programme where an uncompromising coach Julian (David Fukamachi Regnfors) tries to teach them how to present themselves properly and effectively. The pitch training becomes the catalyst for unexpected events and dramatic changes in André’s and Vera’s partnership as well as their working relationship.
Both handle the strict rules for a successful pitch in their own way: while Vera is sometimes too authentic with her natural openness, her partner’s speech is unconvincing. The inconsistency of their expressions in their joint performance and the diametrically opposed evaluation of their performances clash with the affected ego and jealousy of André, who also finds himself in a spiral of awkward situations due to Vera’s excesses.
Comedies are rarely seen at film festivals, but The Hypnosis fulfils the proverbial “exception that confirms the rule”. The filmmakers do not pull all the aces from their sleeves in front of the audience right from the beginning, and they do not build the structure of the story on the principle of a running joke. They constantly surprise the viewers and draw their attention to very complex, ambivalent characters, whom we constantly re-assess in our relationship due to the unpredictability of their behaviour.
As the director Ernst De Geer stated, the film originates from his own feelings of discomfort and near second-hand embarrassment in social situations. “I wanted to explore how that might affect a romantic relationship. At the same time, I wanted to pose questions about what it really means to be oneself, and play with the idea of how much of a pain in the ass someone who is more oneself could be.”
Neither André nor Vera are clearly positive, flawless beings. In their particular, crucial life situation, which determines the future of their working and love relationship, the filmmakers not only raise the question of the aforementioned social pressures on professional achievement, they also point out the extent to which we can be influenced by our parents’ upbringing, expectations as well as the need to be defined against them at all cost. In this respect, but also for its narrative lightness and its ability to make the viewer laugh sincerely in a series of well-constructed absurd situations and surprise them with unexpected twists, The Hypnosis does very well. Let’s look forward to De Geer’s next project.
Edited by Birgit Beumers
© FIPRESCI 2023