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After locking audience members in a coffin to test the limits of claustrophobia and taking social isolation to the extreme by stranding a single viewer for seven days on an island in the North Sea, Sweden’s Goteborg Film Festival will use its 2022 event to experiment with mass hypnosis.
At gala screenings for three films at this year’s festival — Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria starring Tilda Swinton, Shirin Neshat’s Land of Dreams with Matt Dillion and Isabella Rossellini and Christian Tafdrup’s psychological thriller Speak No Evil — a hypnotist will perform a mass hypnosis on the audience, “transforming the audience’s state of mind in accordance with the mood and theme of the film,” organizers said Tuesday. The hypnotist will only break the spell after the screening.
According to Goteborg artistic director Jonas Holmberg, the experiment is meant to “raise questions about submission, transgression and control,” questions made all the more relevant by “the rules and restrictions of the past year” imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. Holmberg also pointed to the parallels between hypnosis and the immersive experience of watching a film in a darkened movie theater.
“Watching a film in the cinema can be extremely hypnotic. At home, with a tablet, it is much harder to maintain the focus you need to get really absorbed by a film,” said Holmberg. “The Hypnotic Cinema is both a tribute to and an extension of the experience of watching films at the movie theater.”
Check out the festival’s trailer for its Hypnotic Cinema below:
Goteborg is notorious for its social experiment gimmicks. Last year’s festival invited a single film fan to spend a week watching movies in a converted lighthouse on a rocky island off Sweden’s west coast. The 2019 fest included “coffin cinema”: screenings in which viewers were locked into a specially designed sarcophagus, the film projected onto the inside of the casket.
But Goteborg’s biggest experiment this year could be its attempt to have an in-person film festival in the middle of the pandemic. The 2022 Palm Springs International Film Festival, set to kick off Jan. 7, was canceled amid a spike in COVID-19 infections. Other January festivals, including Slamdance and Rotterdam, have gone online-only in response to the current surge.
The Swedish government has taken a lighter touch when it comes to COVID restrictions than many of its European neighbors. The country was never put into lockdown and while there have been capacity limits and other regulations imposed on cinemas, they have been able to remain open throughout the pandemic.
Sweden, like much of Europe, is currently experiencing a new wave of coronavirus infections, driven by the highly infectious omicron variant of the virus. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Sweden to its list of “level 4” countries considered very high risk and issued a notice advising people to “avoid travel to Sweden.”
Goteborg, however, is still planning on in-person screenings at 18 cinemas across the city. The program for the 45th event, which runs Jan. 28-Feb. 6, will feature more than 200 films from 80 countries, with guests “from around the world” scheduled to attend, the festival said Tuesday.
Parallel to the in-person festival, Goteborg will also screen festival films online for viewers in Sweden on its Draken streaming platform. The program for the 45th Goteborg International Film Festival will be announced Jan. 11.
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