We’ve all heard the joke about the “Therapist”. Delete the space in between “E’ and ‘R’ and the word can become “The Rapist”. It is a very disquieting idea even with the attempt at humor at it; for a skilled psychiatrist to take advantage of his patient is horrifying and the possibilities that such a thing can happen is high. Well, director In-Sik Kim finally realizes his ambitions and vision in his very surreal art house horror film “Hypnotized” (aka. “Faceless beauty”, Eplguloebtneun Minyeo, 2004). After his critically acclaimed film “Road Movie”, Kim In-Sik is given a budget and the freedom to express his visual and narrative ideas to the big screen. "Hypnotized" is a psycho-sexual drama that is beautifully flawed as with its terminally lonely characters.
Saekwoo (Kim Tae-Woo, Woman is the Future of Man) is a recently widowed psychiatrist who had also found that his wife was cheating on him. Working in a local hospital, he meets a beautiful, married woman named Yoo Ji-Soo (sexy Kim Hye-Soo, Tazza the High Rollers) who had suffered a breakdown called "Borderline Personality Disorder" and is placed under his care. Saekwoo leaves the hospital soon after to practice on his own. A year has passed and Saekwoo runs into each other again in a local grocery store. The two begin to spend time with each other as they open up their deep dark secrets. Ji-Soo is a woman with layers and layers of repressed emotions and her painful memories soon leads into passionate confessions with the use of hypnosis. Saekwoo soon finds himself drawn to Ji-Soo as he has sex with her while she is in a hypnotic trance. When Ji-Soo finally decides to end their friendship and to work things out with her cheating husband, Seakwoo becomes miserable and has established a fail-safe through post hypnotic suggestion in order for him to continue seeing Ji-Soo. The present begins to veer off to even more precarious directions…
The first few minutes of the film would give the impression on exactly what the viewer is in for in “Hypnotized”. The film takes an experimental approach that has a darkly surreal atmosphere with the use of some colors to signify its emotions and mood. Director Kim In-Sik makes use of strong symbolisms and minor metaphors to achieve some of the film’s ‘artsy’ feel. The use of mobile devices to symbolize broken communication and hypnosis as a supernatural power to transcend this mundane world. ‘Hypnotized” takes the themes of loneliness, rejection, guilt and obsession into its main narrative. Kim also keeps his characters in a distance, the audience would remain outside their lives to keep Seokwoo and Ji-Soo mysterious. While this does work in a generating curiosity and interest, it can arguably also serve to alienate the viewer. It does however work in enveloping the viewer into the characters' descent into madness and breakdowns in their psyche. There are some things that remain unexplained in the film, such as to the reason why Ji-Soo sees Saekwoo’s deceased wife in the film’s first half. I supposed it would be safe to assume that since she has undergone a near-death experiences, she became more sensitive to the spirit world.
The success of the script relies heavily on presenting Ji-Soo as a very enigmatic woman and played by sexy Kim Hye-Soo (Tazza the High Rollers) she exudes a charismatic appeal that is very magnetic. With Hye-Soo’s full lips and red lipstick, she very much channels the raw appeal of Greta Garbo. Her past is revealed through her narrations, but it is rather difficult to decipher which is real and which is made up. Ji-Soo is a writer with lots of stories to tell, her characters plays a close parallel to another patient, Soo-Yeon who wrongfully accuses her father of raping her. I suppose it is a way for lonely, rejected people to make their lives a bit more significant in the eyes of others. Saekwoo and Ji-Soo’s husband; Minseok (Chang Yoon) also exposes very close parallels especially in the film’s last act.
“Hypnotized” does have a complex narrative and I am pretty certain that it would perplex most viewers. However, besides its nearly confusing storyline the film has a significant share of graphic sex scenes and nudity. Actresses Kim Hye-Soo and Kim Young-Ae (plays Ha-Yeong, Minseok’s mistress) are shown in very gratuitous scenes of sex and they look fantastic in those scenes. The film is very sexy and erotic, but never for one minute does the sex scenes appear dirty or sleazy. The scenes especially those with Saekwoo and Ji-Soo were very surreal and somewhat creepy but also quite erotically-charged.
It is also to director Kim’s credit that he manages to express the art through the use of great cinematography in the film. He keeps the shots simple, and I was impressed in the manner of which he can make a simple refection feel very mysterious. Some scenes may feel a little over-the-top with the use of sudden loud bursts of noise and sensational dialogue. The film also makes use of sumptuous interiors and elaborate colors; I loved the stairs leading up to Saekwoo’s office. Oh, the film also has blood and mild gore that curiously looked quite superficial instead of merely generating ‘shock value’. I guess director Kim wanted to keep such a thing as visceral blood and gore to match everything in the film’s mood and tone.
The film has a climactic ending as we see the consequences of Saekwoo’s immoral use of hypnosis. I would love to discuss it but it would ruin the film’s narrative impact. It does manage to put everything together and reinforces the idea that Ji-Soo may be more mysterious and more sensitive to the spirit world than we first thought; that hypnosis may be an escape from the material world. The overloaded, in-your-face emotions may turn off some viewers, but the way to see this film is to let yourself go and be taken for an exhilarating ride. “Hypnotized” would either fly or fall because of its style. It is definitely surreal and full of mood. Think of it as a book filled with moving pictures.
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars] I just realized; from the director to all its major performers, their last names are 'KIM'....surreal!
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