Review: The Hypnosis
by Marta Bałaga
- Debuting director Ernst De Geer wants you to feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable
First-time director Ernst De Geer – the man behind the Karlovy Vary competition title The Hypnosis [+see also:
interview: Ernst De Geer
film profile] – wastes no time establishing a simple fact: he is out there to make people feel, well, a certain kind of way. Awkward. Embarrassed. Embarrassed about feeling embarrassed.
Not all of it is subtle, as his protagonist Vera (Asta Kamma August) starts the film by discussing periods – “There was a lot of blood” – but she has a valid reason. With her partner, André (The Worst Person in the World [+see also:
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile]’s Herbert Nordrum), they are developing a women’s reproductive-health mobile app. And her traumatic story is not even true.
In The Hypnosis, lies are not a big deal. It’s just what adults are expected to do. They also keep fixating on how others perceive them: they want to seem richer and more successful, or they pretend their parents have a boat instead of living on one. Vera wants to “fit in”, too, at least until she decides to try hypnosis, hoping to finally ditch that nasty habit of smoking. She wants to quit, she says – or so she thinks. After all, she has been pretty much following other people’s orders for a very long time. But something else happens to her instead.
De Geer’s modest satire could be seen as one woman’s journey towards misbehaving. Which is something she, and many others, were never really allowed to do. Women and girls are polite and kind, and they should know their place. And yet all it takes is one push, and once Vera starts to believe that her unusual therapy has changed her, years of suppression go down the drain.
It starts slowly: she wants to dance in a car and gets angry when she’s accused of not being tech-savvy enough. After a while, she reacts instead of silently smiling; she attacks instead of just agreeing with everyone. And it’s much to the terror of her partner, because her timing couldn’t be worse: they are in the middle of looking for an important investor during a weekend retreat for promising start-ups.
What makes The Hypnosis interesting, despite several slow patches, is that De Geer doesn’t make things too simple. Vera might be having more fun, she might be more authentic, but her behaviour is also appalling and nasty. People are not impressed by her candour – they want her to leave. Which makes one wonder about how easy it is to feel uncomfortable in social situations. There is no logical reason why we feel so embarrassed for other people, even though we are not the ones yelling at someone for stepping on an imaginary dog, for example. De Geer’s film is not just about Vera – it’s also about being in a couple, and about this whole concept that your partner not only represents your business idea, as in the case of these two; they represent you.
Frankly, this movie could be even more unpleasant, given how peculiar André and Vera’s surroundings are, with all the mentions of the “common people” like it’s a Pulp song and pretentious conversations about changing the world, one privileged prick at a time. De Geer could push even further, and it does feel like he is holding back a little, depriving the audience of something like The Square [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile]’s monkey-man scene. But then, then, he delivers a real punch of an ending. Here’s hoping that this particular director will be back soon for even more excruciating fun. Just hide all the carpets first.
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