In 1980, Finland’s most famous hypnotist Olavi Hakasalo, a.k.a Olliver Hawk, was put on trial accused of fraud. His mission in life had been to spread the gospel of the power of suggestion, and he was willing to risk everything to become a player of political influence on the big stage. But in the corridors of power, with a nation’s destiny at stake, an eccentric showman sitting on too many secrets is considered a liability.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Olavi Hakasalo charmed and hypnotized the whole nation. He sold out thousands of stage hypnosis shows, ran a successfull private practice where
he treated people for various behavioural issues, and cultivated a celebrity status for himself. But at home, in his personal life, he was unable to maintain meaningful or loving relationships. His insatiable drive for success and power ended up costing him his family, his friendships, his wealth and ultimately his reputation and credibility.
The cold war Finland of the 60s, 70s and early 80s provides the mise-en-scène for the film. It is a period characterized as Kekkoslovakia, due to the nations father figure President Urho
Kekkonen, who ruled supremely for 25 years.
Hakasalo predicted the rise and risks of populism, which led to his involvement in covert political operations. In the end, he stood too close to the fire; he had the audacity to go up against the most powerful man in Finland, and paid the price. Or that is what Hakasalo would have us believe. But our main character is the ultimate unreliable witness, and the film, which embraces the ambiguity of his story, takes the viewer on a journey into, and out of, Hakasalo's personal truth.
The Hypnotist is a meditation on power, truth and myths in Cold War Finland. Was Hakasalo an eccentric charlatan, a misunderstood genius that was framed for political reasons, or perhaps both?