MIFF Movie Review ~ The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören)

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hypnotisoren

The Facts:

Synopsis: A detective pairs himself with a famous psychologist on a case involving a traumatized young witness to a crime.

Stars: Tobias Zilliacus, Mikael Persbrandt, Lena Olin, Helena af Sandeberg, Anna Azcarate, Jonatan Bökman

Director: Lasse Hallström

Rated: R

Running Length: 122 minutes

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review:  The novel of The Hypnotist has been sitting on my nightstand for the better part of a year, gathering dust as it continues to be moved down the pile in favor of more pressing reads that I’ve been involved with over time.  I had hoped to work my way through the hefty tome before the rumored US adaptation was released, never realizing that like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, home country Sweden would take a crack at it first.  After seeing director Hallström and screenwriter Paolo Vacirca’s version of Lars Keplar’s blockbuster novel, I’m considering selling it instead.

If the novel is anything like this highly contrived and bloated film then I don’t need to read one page of it because making it through the film was frustrating enough.  What a huge disappointment this one was, a major let-down considering Hallström’s pedigree (to be fair, this is the man that has recently directed the treacly Dear John and Safe Haven…but also churned out the delightful Salmon Fishing in the Yemen).  Hallström’s first Swedish language film in 25 years is also one of his more lugubrious sloughs as the audience is drawn into family drama, red herrings, and enough loop holes to sink a small island.

The set-up of the film isn’t half bad – a killer has struck a family in a Stockholm suburb, leaving all dead but a boy and an estranged sister.  With the boy fighting for his life in a coma, a disgraced doctor (Persbrandt) is called in to see what memories he can extract from the boys psyche.  When the killer targets the hypnotist and his family (including Hallström’s wife Olin), the family must work with a dedicated cop (Zilliacus) to identify the danger.

Even writing that description was better than the execution provided by Hallström and company.  I’m dedicated to leaving things spoiler free for my readers but I’d be interested in conversing with anyone that does see this to go over some phenomenally hare-brained plot developments that baffled me during the screening I saw at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.  So many things seemed to be presented solely for the benefit of getting our characters where the film needed to be, reality checks be damned.  I didn’t buy some lapses in memory for a moment, seeing right through their mechanical nature.   Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen enough thrillers in my life to populate a small library but I picked out who ‘dun it almost immediately.

What’s worse is that the actors don’t seem to have any clue what’s going on either.  Conveniently cast as an artist, Olin is nearly swallowed by her mass of hair and tightly pulled face.  I’m a big fan of Olin but she looks disheveled for most of the film and I’m pretty sure every line of dialogue she has was a question rather than a statement.  Worse still is Persbrandt as the titular character, played without any emotion and barely moving his mouth when he does speak.  He looks like Frankenstein and I half expected him to start drooling from his slack-jawed, droopy performance.  Zilliacus has the most interesting character and gets some good mileage out of him, but the film fails him in developing his character beyond the surface information we get on him.

Hallström does deliver a decent final act that equates to about five minutes in a film that wheezes in at around two hours.  The days following my viewing of the film have only widened the problems I have with the movie, it’s a gloomy gus affair that doesn’t have any fire or crackle to it.  If a US version is to be made (and it probably will), I’m hoping that these plot holes are fixed so I can hypnotize myself to forget the Swedish original.

3 comments on “MIFF Movie Review ~ The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören)

  1. Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

    The book (and the two that follow) are awesome. I can’t comment on this movie yet, but this is a book you absolutely owe it to yourself to read (too bad you’re predisposed to hate it based on your dislike of the film). I’m halfway through their third book in this series (“Lars Kepler” is a nom de plume for a Swedish couple), having just finished the second one. The main recurring character, Joona Linna, is really intriguing. Perhaps not quite as morose or self-destructive as, say, Jo Nesbo’s great Harry Hole, or Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, but he’s definitely got my attention. Do consider giving the books your time.

  2. Charlie Mac Carra says:

    Read the novel. Thought it was good. Nothing more nothing less. The movie is not working – not due to bad performances from great actors… But from a screen writing from hell. Lasse must be torn apart when he saw the final cut of this over the top pile of… well.. Hallmark material…. if anyone remembers that channel. Anyhow the other books are more hand on action oriented so the franchise is still far from dead. Kinda easier to put words into action on the next one.

  3. pussonalamp says:

    Though with you 100% on your assessment of the film (I have not read the book either) I’m afraid I can’t agree with your pass for the final act. That whole thing was a completely avoidable disaster caused by their inability to just hang on for half an hour. The cop should be severely disciplined.

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