Home/Comedy, Conscious Creation, Drama, Foreign, Movie Reviews/‘The Hypnosis’ skillfully dissects changes in beliefs, behavior

‘The Hypnosis’ skillfully dissects changes in beliefs, behavior

“The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”) (2023). Cast: Asta Kamma August, Herbert Nordrum, David Fukamachi Regnfors, Andrea Edwards, Alexandra Zetterberg, Karin de Frumiere, Moa Niklasson, Julien Combes, Kristin Brändén Whitaker, Simon Rajala, Aviva Wrede, Victor Iván. Director: Ernst De Geer. Screenplay: Ernst De Geer and Mads Stegger. Web site. Trailer.

Sometimes we can all use a little help in changing our behavior when we’re unable to do so on our own, particularly when it comes to ridding ourselves of nasty and annoying habits. There are many different approaches we can use for this, too, depending on our personal preferences. One of the most commonly employed practices is hypnosis, which has been successfully used for such things as losing weight and quitting smoking. But, in some cases, it can work so well that we may unintentionally end up overcompensating, prompting us to act out in ways that yield a whole new crop of issues to contend with. Such is the case in the hilariously droll new Scandinavian comedy-drama, “The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”).

Business and life partners Vera (Asta Kamma August) and André (Herbert Nordrum) are on the verge of a significant commercial breakthrough. They’ve developed a revolutionary product to help promote women’s gynecological health, particularly for those in developing nations around the world. They’re excited at the prospects for bringing this new product into being to assist women who might not otherwise have ready access to such care, a truly valuable gesture in terms of public health and social activism, not to mention whatever personal benefits they may derive from it. And, as they’re about to introduce it to high-profile would-be investors to bankroll its development and marketing, they’re eager to refine their pitch to these potential backers.

In the course of preparing themselves, the couple practices their schtick with a mentor, Lotta (Andrea Edwards), who provides guidance and suggestions on Vera’s pitch, who’ll be conducting presentations for investors. They also meet with a journalist (Victor Iván), who interviews the aspiring entrepreneurs for an article to help raise visibility for them and their product. And, through all this preparation, Vera and André continually look for ways to put spit and polish on their efforts, something that’s important, given that, despite their competence, they sometimes come across as a little too staid and rather dry, qualities that won’t necessarily win them any points with would-be backers. That’s particularly true for Vera; as the primary spokesperson, she comes across as capable but self-conscious and somewhat reserved, almost shy, traits that don’t exactly inspire confidence.

To take matters a step further in this regard, Vera and André are about to attend a pitch fest program facilitated by Julian (David Fukamachi Regnfors), a renowned expert and no-nonsense coach in the field of helping product developers take their wares public. In addition to the workshop mentoring he provides, he’s assembled a select group of well-heeled international investors to hear the pitches of the program’s participants. Julian helps them put on their game faces, while leading them in exercises aimed at bolstering their creativity and inventiveness, techniques that he believes will aid them in making better pitches and in increasing the chances of convincing backers that they should get behind these new products. There are no guarantees that all (or even any) of the aspiring entrepreneurs will succeed at securing the investors’ support, but Julian is certain that, if they make the right moves during their pitches, they could be well on their way to bright futures. And Vera and André naturally hope that they’ll be a part of that.

However, Vera is a little troubled by a personal quirk that she thinks might undermine her performance and keep her from coming across in the best possible light. She smokes, a habit she regards as unhealthy and antisocial, something that could derail their chances if she doesn’t get it under control. So, in order to bring her A-game to this opportunity, she decides to try hypnosis as a means to quit. She books a session with a hypnotherapist (Karin de Frumerie), who finds Vera to be a somewhat hesitant patient – not so much about giving up the habit, but, more particularly, in her willingness to examine why she wants to do so and her reasons for choosing hypnosis as a treatment method for it. In all likelihood, this is probably another manifestation of Vera’s tendency to behave in a reserved manner, but even she doesn’t recognize that about herself, let alone find a way to bring it up for discussion with the hypnotherapist.

Would-be entrepreneurs Vera (Asta Kamma August, left) and André (Herbert Nordrum, right) discuss a new women’s health product that they hope to introduce to the public if all goes well at an upcoming investor pitch fest, as seen in director Ernst De Geer’s debut feature, the delightfully droll comedy-drama, “The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”). Photo courtesy of Garagefilm International.

Nevertheless, Vera’s hesitation aside, she proceeds with the treatment, during which she slips into a deep trance, one that seems almost surreal. When Vera comes out of it, though, she seems profoundly transformed. The change is radical, albeit somewhat ill-defined, though she’s apparently been positively impacted by the session – lighter in spirit, more self-confident, and definitely more open to the untried and unconventional. And, on top of it all, she stops smoking, too.

In many respects, it appears hypnotherapy has agreed with her, bringing out changes for the better. However, shortly thereafter, when the couple arrives at the pitch fest, Vera’s behavior starts taking some highly unusual turns. She loses many of her inhibitions, freely expressing herself in her words and deeds. It’s almost as if she’s thrown off her cloak of reservation and has embraced a new, unrestrained attitude – and not always in a socially acceptable way, either.

André doesn’t know what to make of the change. In some ways, he’s pleased that Vera has opened up more, and Julian appears to admire her moxie, especially during a trial run of her pitch, which is decidedly different from the presentation she practiced before undergoing the hypnosis session. But, as time goes by, Vera begins acting increasingly strangely and unpredictably, even disorderly. And André is at a loss to understand it or to figure out ways to rein her in, actions that prompt her to become even more uninhibited and belligerent. It’s a change that couldn’t come at a worse time.

The fallout from this becomes especially apparent at a social gathering for investors and the pitch fest participants. Vera starts acting particularly oddly with other entrepreneurs (Moa Niklasson, Julien Combes) and even with one of the investors, Claudia (Kristin Brändén Whitaker), someone who could be a big help to the couple. But, as the evening progresses, conditions deteriorate further, placing their effort in serious jeopardy.

With the big pitch coming up the following day, André is concerned that all their hard work will go for naught. He desperately tries to reconfigure the presentation. He contacts Vera’s hypnotherapist to see if she can shed some light on what’s transpiring. He even considers hiring a surrogate Vera (Aviva Wrede) to serve as a stand-in. But will these measures work? Can Vera’s extreme change in behavior be deciphered? What’s more, is this something temporary, or is it a permanent, unalterable development? And, if the latter, what will that mean for the couple’s business venture and their future together?

So the obvious question here is, what caused Vera to change so drastically? After all, she engaged in the hypnosis session to alter only one of her behavior patterns, which seems like a comparatively minor adjustment. But is it? As a former smoker myself, I can honestly say that the act of ceasing smoking is only one component of a much larger collection of behaviors, many of which undergo alteration when even just one of them changes. It’s like pulling on a single thread in a tapestry – such an action may not seem especially significant in itself, but its connection to all of the others with which it’s interwoven can change the overall pattern. The shift may not appear big at first, but, the more it’s pulled, the more the picture at large begins to change. And, at this point, Vera’s tapestry is about to unravel.

Capable but reserved product spokesperson Vera (Asta Kamma August) practices her presentation for would-be investors prior to making a formal pitch in the delightfully droll comedy-drama, “The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”). Photo courtesy of Garagefilm International.

It’s important to recognize the significance of this when it occurs as a result of a therapy technique like hypnosis. This methodology fundamentally deals with rewriting our beliefs. In this case, the change may seem comparatively simple (i.e., shifting from a belief that smoking is acceptable to smoking is unacceptable), but the behavioral switch that takes place potentially impacts numerous other activities in our existence. For instance, it’s no longer acceptable to light up after a meal, with a cup of coffee, while enjoying a cocktail, after leaving a theater and so forth. None of these shifts may seem like particularly major life alterations, but they are, in fact, just the tip of the iceberg compared to the overall pattern change that takes place. Behavioral connections are altered, and the overall picture changes. And, in essence, these shifts all stem back to the belief adjustments that take place during the hypnotherapy session.

Such changes illustrate just how powerful our beliefs can be, especially when implemented in the right frame of mind, such as the trance state. And, when the new beliefs take hold, they can have tremendous impact. That’s because our beliefs play an essential role in the manifestation of our reality, thanks to the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains these intangible resources are responsible for shaping our physical existence. Many of us may not be aware of this school of thought, but, when we see what kind of impact it can have on our lives – especially when we alter the beliefs we embrace – the role of this thinking can become plainly apparent, perhaps even opening our eyes to a new way of viewing and understanding how our existence operates.

This helps to explain, at least on a basic level, why Vera’s behavior shifts. Her beliefs have changed, so, naturally, the outcomes that arise from them subsequently change, too. However, given the extreme ways in which her demeanor, actions and sensibilities appear to change, there would appear to be more going on with her and her beliefs than just those related to her smoking habit. So what could account for that?

As noted, when Vera attends her hypnotherapy session, she’s hesitant to discuss her reasons for being there and why she chose hypnosis as a treatment method. Superficially speaking, this probably would be viewed as yet another manifestation of an inherently reserved nature. But, when others see what results afterward, it would seem that the hypnosis session was more than just an attempt at altering one form of behavior. It was, in fact, a trigger for activating something deeper and more fundamental, an effort to change something more basic in her nature. Addressing her smoking habit, in essence, is aimed at tackling a belief symptomatic of a desire to change something more profound about her psychological makeup, a sort of gateway step for launching that process. Ironically, though, it’s a process of which she may only be aware subconsciously. Her hypnosis session, however, involves taking a stab at bringing this realization to the surface (i.e., to make it conscious).

This is essentially what happens to us when we seek to become aware of how conscious creation works. In fact, that’s why this philosophy is often compared to psychotherapy, given that its aim is to make us cognizant of how and why things have unfolded – and continue to unfold – in our lives. In both contexts, understanding our underlying beliefs is the key, which is what Vera is just now beginning to understand for herself, even if her awareness hasn’t yet fully broken the surface. And that is what she’s trying to figure out for herself in this story.

When Vera embarks on this odyssey, her hypnotherapist senses that there may be more going on with her patient than she’s letting on, which is why she encourages her to open up about herself and her reasons for being there. But, given that Vera is still attempting to come to terms with this, she says little. However, when viewers enter the world of her trance state, revelations begin to emerge, at least symbolically.

At a workshop aimed at helping them refine their pitch to would-be investors, aspiring entrepreneurs André (Herbert Nordrum, second from right) and Vera (Asta Kamma August, second from left) undergo unexpected changes in their plans after an impactful hypnosis session in “The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”). Photo courtesy of Garagefilm International.

Vera’s reserved nature is at the heart of this, and her beliefs tied to that attitude would seem to be playing a huge role in how she conducts herself in her everyday life. This is apparent in her business dealings and, to a lesser extent, in her personal relationship with André. In fact, she generally seems comfortable and willing to take a back seat in both arenas, letting him assume the lead in how events transpire. But is that really true? If so, then why is she agreeable to be the spokesperson for their new venture? Is it something as simple as the fact that she and André are developing a women’s gynecological health product and the pitch for something like that would seem to be more appropriate and inherently natural coming from a woman? Or is there something more significant going on here, like Vera looking for a way to play a larger role in the venture and to not be as content sitting in the background? If it’s the latter, though, wouldn’t taking on a task as potentially intimidating as that be difficult for someone with such an innately reserved nature? Indeed, wouldn’t bringing that about require some kind of catalyst, one designed to bring forth a more assertive attitude?

Considering how Vera’s behavior changes after her hypnotherapy session, it might seem that pursuing treatment for something apparently unrelated to her overall underlying goal could act as a psychological baby step for getting her foot in the door. Starting “small” may not appear connected to such a larger change, but it could represent a way for launching the process – an act of taking charge in her life that could lead to ramifications that extend far beyond whether or not she lights up a cigarette.

To get the full benefit of this, though, it would behoove Vera to understand why she started smoking in the first place, as it might provide a key to other deeper issues. In this day and age, the antisocial aspects of smoking are widespread, so taking up the habit could be viewed as an act of rebellion. But against whom? And why?

On one hand, rebellious acts help to get us noticed, even if not necessarily in a positive light. On the other hand, though, such initiatives can backfire. But what better way might there be than a rebellious act for someone with a reserved nature to get noticed in the first place, consequences aside? The beliefs underlying this, in virtually all likelihood, probably go unnoticed consciously by the individual in question. Yet the underlying intent is nevertheless present, even if it resides entirely on a subconscious level. And that may well be one of the reasons why Vera took up the habit.

At the same time, though, Vera also likely recognizes the drawbacks behind smoking and on some level believes she should quit. Part of her may be subconsciously aware that taking up the habit was not the wisest course for getting noticed, especially at a time when she’s trying to make a good impression as her product’s spokesperson. That realization could thus account for one of the reasons why she decides to give it up. But, simultaneously, she might also subconsciously understand that partaking in a treatment process like hypnosis might help her to not only kick the habit, but also to unlock the deeper, more significant change that she’s looking to implement in her life – getting over her reserved nature.

Based on what comes from her hypnosis session, it would appear that she’s succeeded at that goal. Granted, she might not have figured out the most effective or appropriate ways for being able to express herself more assertively, as some of her behavior at the pitch fest clearly illustrates. But, then, she’s new to this, and she’s still finding her way, even if she and those around her don’t fully grasp why her words and deeds have assumed these puzzlingly uncharacteristic forms. She obviously needs some leeway in this regard as she attempts to sort out matters. However, given the extreme nature of these acts, she might not receive the slack she needs.

To correct for this, as she seeks to rid herself of an increasingly outmoded nature, Vera must once again return to the reasons why her reserved nature settled in and became so comfortable in the first place. And, for many of us, the prevailing behaviors we adopt (and the underlying beliefs that account for them) often stem from our backgrounds, particularly those that become established during our upbringings.

Evidence of this emerges in the film when Vera and André are on their way to the pitch fest, a journey that includes paying a visit to Vera’s mother, Eva (Alexandra Zetterberg). Eva isn’t the warmest person in the world by any means. She’s often judgmental and critical, carrying herself in a rather cold manner, qualities not uncommon in Scandinavian society (as anyone who’s ever seen an Ingmar Bergman movie can attest). Eva even treats Vera like that now as an adult. So, with a disparaging attitude like that, one can only imagine what kind of an impact it might have on an impressionable, easily intimidated little girl – and how such a withdrawn reaction would subsequently carry over into adulthood, regardless of how inhibiting, hindering and unproductive such a response might be. Unwittingly conducting oneself like that could be potentially crippling to someone who’s also inherently intelligent, inventive and ambitious but fundamentally lacks the confidence and self-reliance to make the most of those traits. Moreover, in another vein, the infliction of such negative treatment might prompt someone to rebel – not necessarily overtly but in a quiet, passive aggressive way, like taking up an antisocial habit, one deliberately aimed at disappointing the party responsible for causing such psychological and emotional harm. (You got that, Eva?)

Unexpected developments at a luncheon hosted by Eva (Alexandra Zetterberg, right), the cold, control freak mother of an aspiring entrepreneur who has recently undergone significant behavioral changes in the wake of a profound hypnosis session, prompt shocked reactions from her guests, as seen in director Ernst De Geer’s debut feature, the delightfully droll comedy-drama, “The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”). Photo courtesy of Garagefilm International.

From this, it would seem that Vera has a lot to unpack after years of mistreatment from Eva. Given the layers of psychological and emotional abuse that have been piled on top of her during that time, there’s much to be unearthed before her true self and worthy attributes are able to surface. And, with little practice at making use of such noteworthy qualities, it may take Vera some time to get them down pat. But, given her apparent eagerness to get on with that process and the newfound awareness that has emerged from her hypnosis session, it would appear she’s anxious to rewrite her beliefs and set things in motion, her overcompensation in this area notwithstanding.

Sadly, Vera’s not alone in these circumstances. However, with the enlightenment that stems from experiences like this, she – and others – have an opportunity to make valuable adjustments in their lives. No matter what treatment or therapy technique is employed to achieve this result, progress is possible, especially when we look to make the process conscious by recognizing, examining and adjusting the underlying beliefs that drive what happens. By doing so, we just might end up getting what we want.

Writer-director Ernst De Geer’s delightfully quirky debut feature takes a humorously absurdist look at the questions of beliefs and behavior, especially in the area of social conformity expectations. This is particularly true when it comes to differentiating behavior that’s confidently assertive and gleefully playful from that which is wholly unacceptable, especially in earnestly serious “grown-up” situations. It accomplishes this goal through a captivating mix of hilariously dry wit and cringeworthy drama, one that often makes viewers squirm while questioning exactly what’s going on. In fact, at times, the mix can be perplexing enough that audiences may be uncomfortably puzzled by what’s transpiring on the screen and what the director is going for – that is, until the surfacing of a big reveal, one that exposes the source behind the emergence of Vera’s erratic behavior and plants a rollicking punctuation mark on this often-uproarious offering. Much of the credit for this goes to the film’s fine script and its superb ensemble cast, particularly protagonists August and Nordrum, who play off each other well and create a wry sense of humorously driven dramatic tension. I love movies that make it a point to stick pins in sanctimonious balloons and push over sacred cows, and this one does as good a job at that as I’ve seen in a while. This offering may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m only too happy to take more than a few good sips. Pass the milk and lemon, please.

Regrettably, “The Hypnosis” may be a little difficult to find at the moment, given that it’s primarily been playing the film festival circuit. However, it’s been well received with numerous award wins and nominations, a true testament to the quality of this offering. It has gone into limited general release in parts of Europe, but I’m hoping that this picture gets a wider theatrical and/or streaming release at some point. It genuinely deserves it.

Behavior is often a complicated subject to dissect and understand. Indeed, it frequently harkens back to the notion that, like psychotherapy, it generally involves working our way through the various layers of an onion. However, by the time we slice through all of those different levels, we come face to face with the truth behind why events unfold as they do, not to mention the root causes of what prompted them in the first place. And, like an onion, uncovering the secrets that are at the core can make us cry or provide us with the means to concoct something savory and delicious. Of course, we’ll never know until we sharpen our knives and cut through the pulp to find what lies beneath, but it’s an act that can ultimately be well worth the effort. So have at it; you may find something you like. You might end up having to reach for a tissue – but here’s hoping you exclaim “Bon appétit!” instead.

Copyright © 2023-2024, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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