Release Date(s)2020 (March 29, 2022)
Studio(s)Don Films/Marmot-film (Altered Innocence)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D-
Hypnosis is a disturbing 2020 coming-of-age drama from Russian filmmaker Valeriy Todorovskiy. Todorovskiy was inspired by his own experiences as a 12-year-old child, when he was brought to the famous Soviet hypnotist Vladimir Raikov in order to treat his claustrophobia. He went to screenwriter Lyubov Mulmenko to develop the idea into a screenplay, and her story involves Misha (Sergey Giro), a teenager who suffers from persistent sleepwalking. His parents are desperate to try anything to help him, so they send him to the renowned hypnotherapist Dr. Volkov (Maksim Sukhanov) for treatment. Misha doesn’t appear to be hypnotizable, but he gets to know Dr. Volkov and the rest of the patients, especially a girl named Polina (Polina Galkina). Yet Misha may not be as resistant as he seems, and as the lines between dreams and reality blur, he begins to suspect that there’s more going on with Dr. Volkov than meets the eye.
Hypnosis examines some interesting questions regarding hypnotism, especially the disturbing notion that we may not be able to determine whether or not we have actually been hypnotized. Misha has the rug pulled out from under him repeatedly, Fight Club style, yet there’s never any certainty that those experiences are any more real than the ones that they seem to replace. Todorovskiy fully embraces that ambiguity, leaving audiences just as uncertain of their own footing as Misha is of his. As a result, the film is steeped in paranoia—an especially quiet and controlled kind of paranoia, but paranoia nonetheless.
That atmosphere is beautifully conveyed by Todorovskiy through the meticulousness of his camerawork and editing. The camera moves are slow and precise, the compositions are tightly controlled, and the cuts are careful and deliberate. Misha worries that the world around him is being governed by someone else, and Todorovskiy’s filmmaking style perfectly conveys that idea visually. There are layers of self-referentiality at play in Hypnosis, because Todorovskiy is controlling the world around Misha even more than Dr. Volkov is, so the lines between filmmaker and hypnotist blur. Despite that, Todorovskiy still leaves everything open to interpretation, and so Hypnosis can be read on different levels, even as a metaphor for Vladimir Putin’s control over Russian society. (It’s worth noting that Todorovskiy was actually born in the Ukraine, back when it was a part of the USSR.) Hypnosis may prove frustrating for those who are in search of clear answers, but for those who enjoy the questions, it’s a fascinating film.
Cinematographer Jean-Noel Mustonen captured Hypnosis digitally, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. There’s no information available regarding cameras, lenses, or capture resolutions that he used, but the results are quite beautiful, in a stylized way. The image has the crisp, clean look of quality digital cinematography, with little in the way of noise or other artifacts. The contrast and black levels are solid, though some of the low-light scenes have unavoidably elevated black levels. The color timing is interesting, because at first it may seem to have a greenish cast, yet that’s not a flaw. Instead, it’s an aesthetic choice. The production design and the costuming leans towards those green tones in order to give most of the scenes an appropriately sickly hue. At key moments, the colors do open up to include warmer orange tones that are in careful contrast to the surrounding material. Like everything else to do with the film, even the color has been tightly controlled. It’s a striking look that suits Hypnosis well.
Audio is offered in Russian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The soundstage remains focused on the front channels throughout the film, with the disquieting score from Anna Drubich providing most of the ambience. There are some occasional moments where the surrounds spring to life, such as during a noisy subway ride, but generally it’s a quiet mix. Yet that’s not inappropriate for the material—quite the opposite, as the stillness of the soundtrack makes thematic sense. Misha is so focused on his own perceptions that he wouldn’t even hear everything that’s going on around him.
Altered Innocence’s Blu-ray release of Hypnosis comes in a clear amaray case with an insert that extends the background graphics from the front cover onto the reverse, so it’s visible when the case is opened. There’s a slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 1,000 units, that features alternate artwork. There are no real extras on the disc; just a few trailers (all in HD):
- US Trailer (1:39)
- Concrete Night Trailer (1:35)
- Arrebato (Rapture) Trailer (1:41)
- Stop-Zemlia Trailer (1:40)
- The Erlprince Trailer (1:47)
The lack of extras is disappointing, as it would be interesting to hear what Todorovskiy has to say about Hypnosis. On the other hand, he’s been pretty cagey in interviews, so he doesn’t seem to want to offer any more answers than the film does. Regardless, Hypnosis still speaks for itself, and at least Altered Innocence’s Blu-ray offers a quality presentation of the film.
- Stephen Bjork