Cinema hypnosis: is this the answer to noisy post-lockdown audiences? | Life and style


Name: Hypnotic cinema.

Age: New for 2022.

Appearance: Just like a film.

But, in this case a piece of film-making so mesmerising and incantatory that it leaves viewers in a kind of trance? No, just a regular film. They hypnotise you before it starts.

Where? In Sweden.

At every film? For now, the policy is only in place before some films at this year’s Göteborg film festival.

What happens? Audiences are treated to a preliminary session with a hypnotist, the aptly named Fredrik Praesto, who stands in front of a projection of a large spinning spiral.

Are you sure this isn’t a film? I think I’ve seen it. I’m sure. After about 20 minutes of relaxation exercises, everyone closes their eyes for a countdown. Once they’re under, they open their eyes, and the film starts. Afterwards there’s another quick countdown to lift the spell.

Why do they do this? “To experiment with the film experience, to challenge our ideas about how to watch a film,” said Jonas Holmberg, the director of the festival.

Oh. I thought maybe it was to stop people using their phones. Audience members did report higher levels of concentration, so maybe they were less prone to that sort of distraction.

I mean, anything to stop the constant talking and all the laughing in the wrong places. That’s not a bad idea – perhaps hypnosis could be deployed more widely as a way of controlling unruly audiences.

I guess people have forgotten how to behave in public since Covid forced a two-year break from going out. Well, there have been a few recent incidents. A studio audience member was criticised for shrieking maniacally during a recent broadcast of Dancing on Ice.

Annoying, but it’s not exactly Turandot, is it? And, just before Christmas, the singer Beverley Knight was complaining about rowdy drunks repeatedly spoiling performances of her West End show The Drifters Girl. “My advice is to stay your ass at home,” she said.

But, can hypnosis really calm drunkards intent on wrecking an evening of musical theatre? It’s got to be worth a try, don’t you think?

I’m worried they might include a hypnotic suggestion to stop me bringing my own Maltesers from home. As long as you don’t eat them too loudly, no one will know.

Do say: “I really enjoyed The Matrix Resurrections. Somebody snap me out of it, for pity’s sake.”

Don’t say: “Your eyelids are getting heavy. Your limbs are like lead weights. So stay your ass home.”

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