«The most skillful politicians have always mastered hypnotic methods,» it’s said in Finnish documentary The Hypnotist, screening in the online edition of DocsBarcelona. Fascist dictator Adolf Hitler’s powers of oratory in mesmerising the masses and his links to celebrity hypnotist and stagecraft master Eric Jan Hanussen have long been a subject of attention — and controversy, for could it not be a side-stepping of responsibility to claim a kind of spell over-rode a nation’s free will? Director Arthur Franck explores the terrain of politics, showmanship, and mind control through the strange, lesser-known story of Olavi Hakasalo (or Olliver Hawk, as he preferred to call himself). This Finnish hypnotist, who carried his knack for dark pomp and dramatic timing to the end as he died on stage in the middle of a show, had shady links to Urho Kekkinen, who ruled Finland for a quarter of a century from 1956 with what many would call an autocratic hand. The film makes the claim that Kekkonen secretly hired Hakasalo to conduct research and advise the government on mass hypnosis and suggestion for political purposes, and in particular to offer methods by which popular rival Veikko Vennamo and his Finnish Rural Party could be sabotaged and silenced.
Hakasalo’s biography is set out, painting a …
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