Ernst De Geer’s debut feature The Hypnosis observes a differing couple as they attend a prestigious seminar to advance their revolutionary women’s health app.
The Hypnosis follows Vera (Asta Kamma August) and long-term boyfriend/business partner André (Herbert Nordrum) who are preparing for the biggest seminar of their lives. The pair have created a seemingly revolutionary app, Epione, to help women around the world with reproductive issues. Epione is their passion project, co-founding it together based on Vera’s experience growing up with Hemophilia. Their pitch, which they rehearse in English to appeal to a wider audience, emphasises why Epione is so crucial to get as many investors on board as possible. If Vera had no one to talk to whilst experiencing her first period, she may have died due to her condition. With Epione, girls in every country would have enough resources to seek out help with no embarrassment.
The night before the prestigious seminar, Vera receives hypnotherapy for her nicotine addiction. Vera and André don’t believe that hypnotherapy actually works, but Vera goes to her appointment anyway. This is when André begins to notice Vera’s personality slowly changing. She goes from being a little shy and reclusive to being assertive in a room full of people she’s never met before. It’s apparent that maybe her hypnotherapy session wasn’t for her smoking after all, and instead to cure her inability to say what’s on her mind.
Director Ernst De Geer’s debut feature has an interesting premise. The satirical commentary on startups, with constant lively disputes about whether climate change is a bigger issue than women’s rights, is where Geer hits the nail on the head perfectly. It does have its funny moments. When it comes to the chemistry of the leads however, it’s not believable. With a story like this, you need to be fond of the characters so that you root for Epione to succeed. Geer wants you to empathise with André and his thought process with the sudden change of Vera but I can’t quite bring myself to like him. Vera has been hiding her ability to be independent for what seems like the whole of their relationship, so why can’t André find a balance where she can express her thoughts the same way he can?
Geer has the power to create an atmosphere where I had shivers running down my spine due to the second-hand embarrassment of Vera’s actions. Whether it be pouring herself wine glasses of milk from behind the bar or taking it too far with imaginary pets running around the hotel lobby, I wanted The Hypnosis to be over that very second. Vera makes people pet her fictitious chihuahua and even begins shouting at a woman who ‘steps’ on her imaginary dog. Second-hand embarrassment in films is sometimes more excruciating to watch than John Cramer’s elusive Saw traps.
Maybe The Hypnosis is just too bemusing for anyone to understand. One thing I know for sure is that it will stick with me for a while as I continue to attempt to pick apart the real meaning behind Vera’s hypnotherapy session and the toll it took on her and André’s relationship.
The Hypnosis will be screened at the BFI London Film Festival on 5-7 October 2023. Read our list of 25 movies to watch at the 2023 London Film Festival!