May 16, 2015

The Hypnotized: Close Your Eyes and Answer Your Cellphone

The first time I saw The Hypnotized a decade ago at the Korean Film Festival, I wrote "This year’s most lavishly realized and intellectually engaging entry has all the external markings of a classic noir: unspeakable crimes, rich atmospherics, and a riveting femme fatale. But to label it a whodunit would be to undersell what it actually is: a what-the-hell-is-going-on." Ten years later, Kim In-shik's bizarre thriller feels a little less confounding yet just as deliciously perverse and disorienting. For visuals alone, it's hard to beat.

At its center is Kim Hye-su giving one of those over-the-top types of femme fatale performances that is hard to define as either "genius" or "moronic" because it's so extreme and so disturbingly unrelenting that it exists outside the criteria you'd usually apply.* As an aspiring novelist who sexually fantasizes about a professional skier (Han Jeong-su) who may or may not be real (and who may or may not be mute), Kim struts around in heels that look like weapons, especially whenever she ascends the staircase that plays like a xylophone, just outside her current psychiatrist/lover/rapist's office/boudoir/drug-den. If she realized what was going on during her sessions, she'd probably be prone to use one of those stilettos as a dagger, too, since her obsessed therapist (Kim Tae-woo) is hypnotizing her so he can screw her while she dreams of a previous fantasy fling. Whether she knows this or not is unclear.

Whether he's doing that or not is also unclear. I mean, is he really having sex with her or is he strung out on drugs just like his wife (Kim Nan-hee), a guilt-ridden anestheologist, who killed herself, leaving her rock star sex toy (Jo Dong-hyuk) to booty-call her over and over on a cellphone he's unaware is being answered by the deceased's former spouse? [I loved how the shrink ended up engaging in the same behavior via the cellphone now owned by his patient's one-time husband (Yun Chang).] The recurring plot twists, images, and dynamics ensure this loopy film just keeps getting loopier and loopier. It can be dizzying — as can some of its memorable overhead shots — but I promise it won't make you sick.

Awards: Kim won the Baek Sang Art Award and the Grand Bell Award for Best Actress for The Hypnotized.

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