When you think of hypnotism, you might traditionally associate it with a pendulum swinging back and forth, or an advanced therapy strategy for accessing deep buried childhood trauma. You would be right; it’s only thanks to a Swedish film festival’s recent excursion into the depths of consciousness that another application has come to light. And for a generation conditioned by smartphones and social media to have an ever-narrowing attention span, it might just be the perfect supplement to achieving a brief but immersed cinematic escape.
A New Cinematic Experience
Applying the technique to a recreational experience such as going to the movies has until recently been an unheard phenomena; but this is precisely the experience the experimental Göteborg Film Festival 2022 offered its visitors from 28th Jan to 6th Feb. Leading the audience through a 20 minute, hypnotic state-inducing session, hypnotist Fredrik Praesto addressed the audience with a swirling black and white spiral projected onto the screen behind him. By asking the audience to briefly surrender control over their consciousness and engaging them with exercises such as closing their eyes whilst bringing their hands together as if affected by some magnetic force, the hypnotist was able to guide the group of moviegoers through an exploration of conscious states complementary to the film.
Following the exercises and a 20 second countdown, audience members opened their eyes and the movie began; featuring one of Land of Dreams, Memoria or Speak No Evil. Reports from the viewers present indicate a stupor falling over some of the spectators, whilst others found their concentration levels elevated, benefitting from the heightened tunnel vision enabled by the dark environment. Combining this with the hypnotic suggestion, engaging with somatic, visual and auditory sensory experiences became more natural and easier to evade falling prey to the wandering mind that can sully cinema viewing.
Does Hypnosis Work in the Cinema Setting?
From the small viewership sample able to experience the event, it's undecided as to the extent hypnosis could be implemented universally. Despite most recounts from the event supporting the experience in allowing them to sink into the themes, emotions and sensations the cinematic-hypnotic immersion provided, not all advocate for going under to engross in cinema. Mark Beaumont for NME, worries of the potentially traumatic effects going under could have: “Were we conditioned to find most cinema more affecting, with its relentless violence, tragedy, death, crisis points and jump scares, then the average trip to Cineworld would leave many of us deeply traumatised. And that’s without all the other potential pitfalls; revisiting your every childhood trauma at the first glimpse of a triggering issue.”
Nonetheless, the potential of utilising a time-tested method for altering conscious states, before subjecting those audiences to film, is evident. But whether or not this potential holds a scalability that can be harnessed commercially to the wider moviegoer scene, without triggering particularly vulnerable and susceptible individuals, is yet to be seen.