“The Hypnosis” (“Hypnosen”)
Screened at the 59th Annual Chicago International Film Festival (4/5); Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)
Sometimes we can all use a little help in changing our behavior when we aren’t able to do so on our own, and hypnosis is one of the most commonly employed practices. 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 with Vera (Asta Kamma August), who gives hypnosis a try to quit smoking, a behavior she regards as unhealthy and antisocial. However, Vera’s hypnotherapist (Karin de Frumerie) suspects that her patient’s reluctance in explaining her reasons for seeking out treatment suggests that she’s there for more than just kicking the habit. This hunch leads her to conduct a profoundly impactful hypnotherapy session that produces a radical, albeit somewhat ill-defined, change in her subject’s behavior. And, even though Vera seems to relish the effects of this change, it couldn’t have come at a worse time: just as Vera and her business and romantic partner, André (Herbert Nordrum), are about to pitch their new commercial venture to a group of select international investors at an elite pitch fest, an event where they receive guidance from a high-profile pitch coach (David Fukamachi Regnfors). During preparation for their presentation, Vera begins acting strangely unpredictably, even disorderly, toward others, including those whom she and André are most trying to win over. So what’s going on here? And what, if anything, can André do to salvage matters before everything falls apart? Writer-director Ernst De Geer’s delightfully quirky debut feature takes a humorously absurdist look at questions of social conformity, particularly when it comes to differentiating behavior that’s 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 the big reveal, the one that exposes the source behind the emergence of Vera’s erratic behavior, one that 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. “The Hypnosis” 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.