Barring disturbances linked to the pandemic, the 2022 edition of Scandinavia’s largest film festival (the Göteborg Film Festival) will be held mass hypnosis during three film screenings. Before each of the three selected films (Memory, Land of dreams, and Don’t speak bad) begins, hypnotist Fredrik Praesto will take the main stage and “transform the audience’s state of mind to suit the mood and theme of the film in question”. According to the Gothenburg Festival, Praesto will break hypnosis at the end of each screening.
The 45th annual festival runs from January 28 to February 6, with the Gothenburg Festival announcing on January 15 that festival-goers (in person) will be able to participate in the experimental screenings. Appropriately titled The Hypnotic Cinema, the Göteborg Festival released a disturbing trailer to get people who like to be terrified (not me) to sign up for the event.
Jonas Holmberg, artistic director of the Gothenburg festival explained to Variety that the hypnosis and the cinematic experience happened simultaneously, and he doesn’t think it was a coincidence. The state of hypnosis has been around in literature and spiritual practice for centuries in different forms, so I think it is very selective about when it started. to study post-Enlightenment. Either way, Holmberg sees this as a connection and says Variety, “We want to celebrate this cinematic experience in theaters and extend it as well by adding another layer of hypnosis.”
Call me paranoid, but my first thought was the HBO scene Watchmen in which black Harlem moviegoers of the 1930s are subjected to hypnosis forced by the Cyclops (the regional Ku Klux Klan-lite). Then I thought of a simpler horror like the hypnosis of Chris in Jordan Peele Get out and the aversion therapy imposed on Alex in the adaptation of Stanley Kubrick A clockwork orange.
Speaking of books, there is also a lot of terrifying hypnosis in Felt by George du Maurier (super anti-Semite, I recommend against) and one of my favorite childhood books, A series of unfortunate events (book four, The Miserable Mill). Do we see a pattern here?
These instances in which someone has used hypnosis (and more) range from “morally gray but vacillating on the negative” to “an outright tool of wickedness.” They know it too, as Holmberg said: “Hypnotic cinema is all about retaining the experience of watching the movie. We wanted to see what happens when we go even further in the spectator mode associated with a very well done and effective horror film.
Even though we weren’t in a global pandemic, it seems like a bad idea or a publicity stunt. Whether it was a work of performance art or part of a rigorous academic study, of course. In these cases it is possible not only to do an experiment (which we don’t even know if the festival is doing) but also to check the liability procedures for all parties involved. I keep my active imagination away from all of that.
(Going through Variety, image: Monkeypaw Productions.)
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