To add another dimension to the cinematic experience, Scandinavia’s largest film festival introduced 20 minutes of hypnosis ahead of the featured movies.
“We have built this hypnotic cinema to experiment with the film experience, to challenge our ideas about how to watch a film,” Jonas Holmberg, director of the Gothenburg Film Festival in southwest Sweden, said.
The first experimental session took place on Sunday evening in front of just a few dozen people – due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In lieu of trailers the audience got a live session with hypnotist Fredrik Praesto, before a viewing of Land of Dreams, by the Iranian-American director Shirin Neshat.
Standing on stage in front of a large hypnotic spiral, Praesto began with physical exercises - such as asking audience members to bringing their hands together as if they were magnets and to close their eyes.
After a 20-second countdown, the audience reopened their eyes and the film began. After the credits started rolling, there was another countdown for the audience to break the hypnosis.
The viewers said the sensations they experienced ranged from a form of stupor to a much stronger concentration, the volunteers reported.
“You get rid of all the noises and the distractions and all of that and also with the sound you really get into the movie,” Jonna Blumborg, a young audience member, said.
“I tried to do those things that he told us, like feel the textures of fabrics, skin, hair and so on and it was easier to focus because of the environment, total black, just the light screen,” her friend Louise Nilsson added.
Another spectator, Fredrik Sandsten, explained it as entering “a sort of very pleasant state of mind”.
The Gothenburg Film Festival has made a habit of offering unusual experiences to its audiences.
Last year, to follow Covid rules, it offered a week of screenings to just one person, in the lighthouse of a deserted island off the coast.
A nurse exhausted by work during the pandemic was selected as the lone viewer.