Review of The Hypnotist : A Swedish Return not as Powerful as Expected

Hypnotisoren Hypnotisoren

This past Friday marked the opening in Québec’s theaters of the latest importation in Swedish thrillers: The Hypnotist. Sadly for fans of the genre, this one will probably not meet the expectations set by its predecessors.

The Hypnotist, or Hypnotisören in Sweden, tells the story of Joona Linna, a police inspector forced to team up with an hypnotist in order to resolve the murder of an entire family before the case gets classified. Along the way, the hypnotist finds himself, and his family, a lot more involved in the case than he might have wished for. Sounds interesting?

Lasse Hallström’s film marks his first Swedish language effort in 25 years. The director who previously gained stardom in America with titles like Chocolat, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules, had not shot in his country since 1987. For the monumental occasion of his return, he adapted Alexender Ahndoril’s mystery novel for the big screen. But if I was expecting a lot from this thriller, I eventually had to lower my expectations in order to enjoy the ride. Some important ingredients are severely defective, affecting the tone of the movie.

But before I point out the misses, let me re-assure fans of the Swedish director that the movie contains a fair share of positives. The actors, under Hallström’s hands, give magnificent performances. Inspector Linna, perfectly portrayed by Tobias Zilliacus, is credible and brings a nice version of the lonely policeman, slightly echoing Mankell’s Wallender. Playing his unwilling partner, Mikael Persbrandt as the hypnotist Erik Bark, delivers a stunning performance. A few minutes after Persbrandt’s first scene, I was captivated by his character and curious about the actor’s career because his interpretation of the hypnotist is both unusual and original. To match this strong persona, Hallström casted Lena Olin to play Simonne, Bark’s tormented wife. Olin’s dramatic performance is right and carefully calculated. She easily manages to avoid being eclipsed by her husband when both share the scene.

On the downside, I felt that those great performances deflected the mood of the movie. Instead of witnessing a slow buildup of suspense, I found myself drowning in a drama that patiently overshadowed every aspect of the investigation. In other words, as I was watching the movie, I felt Hallström’s dramatic experience way more that I wanted. After spending more time investigating the couple’s problems than the actual crime, I begin to think that the action scenes were out of place in this drama. In the end, it’s hard to remember there is even a policeman involved in the story.

The other negative point, and this one is major, is the script. First, the movie is filled with so many clichés of its genre, that it’s almost impossible to find something new or original. In fact, there were so few fresh ideas that I tried to hold on to each of them to ease my appreciation of the film. Further, there are some major implausibilities in the script that are (if you’re a fan of the genre) almost shocking. I could not help myself from thinking over and over: What? Wait? Are they so dumb? It is hard to restrain myself from giving some mind blowing examples. Finally, for those expecting hypnotism… well, I foresee a huge deception. This aspect of the film so flimsy and practically nonexistent that I truly do not see any reason why the movie was given this title.

Released two years ago in his homeland, the movie was Sweden’s official submission at the 2013 Academy Award for foreign language film. While it is easy to understand why it did not get nominated, it is still, nevertheless, entertaining. It just might not be the kind of movie you want to see in your overpriced cineplex.

The Hypnotist is in theatres now.