Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Hypnotist’

Hot Docs 2019


The Hypnotist
(Finland, 72 minutes)
Dir. Arthur Franck
Programme: Making Believe (North American Premiere)

Born Olavi Hakasalo, Olliver Hawk was the moniker of a charismatic hypnotist, who practiced his craft in Finland from the 1950s to 1980s. An enigmatic figure with a tumultuous life, Hawk became significant for his connections to Finland’s long-standing president, Urho Kekkonen. In The Hypnotist, the third feature from filmmaker Arthur Franck, we track a sort of biography of Hawk, beginning with his early hypnotism shows, going through his ties to politics, and concluding with his death during a performance.

While Hawk’s history is a stranger-than-fiction tale which is fascinating in how bizarre it is, it does occasionally get bogged down in details. The narrative swamps itself to a dizzying degree; perhaps the only way to tackle Hawk’s persona, but regardless an engulfing drama.

But while Hawk’s biography can be too densely layered at times, hitting on his personal and romantic life, stage career, political forays, and fraud allegations, The Hypnotist is a remarkably well-crafted film. With a uniquely unified visual aesthetic, it is a pleasure to watch. Franck captures the time periods he draws on, a detailed touch that helps coalesce the otherwise unwieldy narrative. Though at times overwhelming, The Hypnotist remains a fairly solid documentary.

The Hypnotist screens:
-Mon, Apr. 29 at 1:00 p.m. at TIFF Lightbox
-Sun, May 5 at 6:15 p.m. at Hart House

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