May 12, 2022

At the Gothenburg Film Festival, sessions under hypnosis

On January 30, the Göteborg Film Festival, in Sweden, offered to experiment with projections under hypnosis. A journalist from the local daily Göteborgs-Posten slipped into the room. He tells his “Waltz to the unknown.”

“The audience has their eyes closed and begins to breathe remarkably hard. Soft sacred music comes from the loudspeakers. Praesto then asks us to focus on the big screen in the room, where a big circle is spinning”, tells the special correspondent of the daily Göteborgs-Posten at the Stora Teatern cinema.

Fredrik Praesto is the hypnotist called upon by the film festival held each year in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. For this 2022 edition, the management had the idea of“deepen the cinematic experience” by organizing collective hypnosis sessions during the screening of three films: Land of Dreams, by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari on January 30; Memory, from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, on February 2; Speak No Evil, by Christian Tafdrup.

“It will be interesting to see how people experience it, explained to the same newspaper festival director Jonas Holmberg, early January. In this time of pandemic and restrictions, “we want to provoke a debate on the relationship between the individual and the state, on control and submission. […] After all, hypnosis is a voluntary act, as you submit to someone else’s will.”

A “dangerous and exciting” session

It is with these words in mind that the reporter of the regional newspaper, Jonathan Bengtsson, went to attend the screening of the American comedy Land of Dreams, taken from one of the last screenplays written by the late Jean-Claude Carrière (film still unreleased in France). “In the past, people argued over whether hypnosis was real or whether it was a dubious practice by showmen and fraudsters. But after just a few days, this January, mass hypnosis became a real thing, with articles in the mainstream media. It also became dangerous and exciting,” he immediately observes.

Because the festival project almost collapsed. Suddenly, at the beginning of January, the Public Agency for Social Affairs recalled that group hypnosis could be harmful to health. And that it was necessary to ask for authorization before organizing sessions like those planned in Gothenburg, under penalty of seeing the hypnotist incur a sentence of up to six months in prison. It was “great for the reputation of this practice” and for the advertising of the festival, slips the journalist.

The hypnotist in full action: Fredrik Praesto during the first session of “hypnotic cinema” offered by the Gothenburg festival. Photo Gothenburg Film Festival.

According to the article, Fredrik Praesto is up to the occasion, in shadow master. “When he steps in front of the crowd tonight, he not only has a ponytail, but also spiritual weight”. with one voice “deep”, he insists that anyone who feels the slightest discomfort can leave the room. Then he “starts to make us waltz towards the unknown”, thanks to the spinning circle on the screen. One of my ears is starting to hurt.

“My seat is a cup of soft ice cream”

Praesto tells a story between an emperor and a mathematician. The journalist observes:

Everyone is shrinking more and more in his head. I feel like I’m in a hot little tube.

Then the session master asks the audience to open their eyes to watch Land of Dreams, the story of a woman who collects the dreams of others. “For the first hour, all the colors have a tropical glow. My seat looks like a cup of soft ice cream. […] It is difficult to concentrate on the action: everything is so visible. Faces bow.”

During the last third of the film, concludes the author, “The characters start talking to each other a little too much. The hypnosis returns, and you watch a perfectly normal movie. Another dose of group hypnosis would have been helpful. Just a little addition in the middle of the show. Otherwise it was nice.”


Founded in 1813, this liberal daily is above all a regional newspaper. However, it is the second morning daily in the country by circulation! Renowned for its seriousness, it has nevertheless adopted the tabloid format of popular dailies.


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