Karlovy Vary 2023 Review: THE HYPNOSIS, Millennial Answer to Lars von Trier

Herbert Nordrum and Asta Kamma August star in Swedish filmmaker Ernst De Geer's debut feature, which aims to shatter social conformity.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Karlovy Vary 2023 Review: THE HYPNOSIS, Millennial Answer to Lars von Trier

Swedish debut director Ernst De Geer took the Karlovy Vary audience by storm with his Scandinavian social satire, The Hypnosis. As one of the main competition's most talked-about titles this year, the film blends Nordic keen observation with the deadpan absurdity of the Greek New Wave to deliver a biting commentary on the tribulations of modern life and entrepreneurship in this clever relationship comedy of manners.

André (Herbert Nordrum) and Vera (Asta Kamma August), as co-founders of a start-up that developed a women's reproductive health mobile app, Epione, are more than just business partners, they're a couple.

Their relationship starts to unravel, however, at a Shake Up workshop led by a renowned entrepreneurial guru, Julian (David Fukamachi Regnfors), a preparatory event aimed to boost their forthcoming investors' pitching forum. Prior to their arrival at the business retreat, designed to refine their pitch and captivate international investors, Vera seeks the help of a hypnotist to quit smoking, a session that delivers more than she bargained for.

André soon notices a change in Vera's behavior that causes their painstakingly rehearsed pitch to veer off course. While he struggles to maintain focus and authenticity, Vera, albeit also deviating from the script, manages to engage the audience with her natural flow, making a significant impression on Julian. Keen on enhancing his standing with the guru and improving his own pitching performance, André seeks a private consultation with Julian.

André, in an attempt to curry favor with the guru, pretends to share his interests. This strategy is quickly undermined when Vera casually reveals André's feigned enthusiasm for a book he claims to enjoy. The incident significantly elevates the level of social awkwardness as a flustered André scrambles to save face, Julian comes to realize what is transpiring, and Vera, unperturbed, breaches yet another social boundary.

The premise of the story poses the question: What would happen in a relationship and in everyday social interactions if someone ceased adhering to the conventional norms and protocols, and instead, began to act off-script?

Vera's transformation into a socially unhinged character who acts authentically and true to herself begins to unsettle those around her. The steady violation of social protocols intensifies with increasing absurdity. De Geer noted that the script was inspired by the cringe-inducing discomfort and second-hand embarrassment often found in social interactions.

The Hypnosis revisits the theme of social conformity, but does so with a characteristic flair of the late millennial generation. The start-up funding pitching forum serves as a symbolic backdrop for De Geer's comedy of manners, taking place within the claustrophobic and aseptic confines of a conference hotel, an apt metaphor for the younger generation's playing field.

Thanks to its premise and De Geer's penchant for crafting cringe-inducing scenarios, The Hypnosis isn't a straightforward comedy, but rather a carefully calibrated study in British awkwardness that skews towards the bizarre drama-satire blend of Yorgos Lanthimos, though without the biting edge.

Further enriching its unique blend of British awkwardness, Greek absurdity, and Nordic detachment, The Hypnosis can be likened to a compact cross-over between The Worst Person in the World and Toni Erdmann.

De Geer probes how societal norms sculpt personal identity and freedom. As Vera begins to exhibit unfiltered behavior, André, constrained by societal expectations, is driven to extreme measures, such as convincing a complete stranger to pose as Vera for a business meeting — while Vera is present. The Hypnosis not only interrogates the concept of identity but also questions what people truly desire, stripped of expectations imposed by parents or friends.

By grappling with themes of societal conformity, personal freedom, and the performative aspect of identity, The Hypnosis emerges as a millennial response to Lars von Trier's The Idiots.

The Hypnosis won the FIPRESCI Award for the best film in the Crystal Globe Competition, the Europa Cinemas Label and Herbert Nordrum took home the Best Actor Award. Read more about the film at the festival's official site


  • Ernst De Geer
  • Ernst De Geer
  • Mads Stegger
  • Asta Kamma August
  • Herbert Nordrum
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Asta Kamma AugustErnst De GeerHerbert NordrumKarlovy Vary 2023SwedenMads SteggerComedyDrama

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