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Swedish Film Festival Audience Hypnotizes Success

To add another dimension to the cinematic experience, Scandinavia’s largest film festival hypnotizes the audience before the film is shown. “We built this hypnotic cinema to experiment with making film experiences, to challenge ideas about how to watch movies,” said Jonas Holmberg, director of the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden.

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The first experimental session took place on Sunday evening local time in front of only a dozen people, limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In lieu of the trailer, viewers get a session with hypnotist Fredrik Praesto before watching “Land of Dreams” by Iranian-American director Shirin Neshat.

Praesto started with physical exercises – such as asking the audience to put their hands together as if they were magnets and close their eyes.

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After counting 20 seconds, the audience opens their eyes and the movie starts. Once the film credits roll, it’s another count to stop hypnotizing the audience. The sensation felt by the audience varied, ranging from almost unconscious to stronger concentration, volunteers reported.

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“You can get rid of the noise and distraction, and you really get to live the movie,” said viewer Jonna Blumborg.

“I try to do what I’m told, like feel the texture of the fabric, skin, hair and so on and it’s easier to focus because it’s so dark, there’s only screen light,” says her friend, Louise Nilsson. Another onlooker, Fredrik Sandsten, explained that the hypnosis put him in a pleasant state of mind.

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The Gothenburg Film Festival usually offers a unique experience for the audience. Last year, following Covid-19 rules, they only provided special screenings for one person on a remote island. The lucky audience selected last year was a nurse exhausted from the work that had piled up during the pandemic.