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Hypnos

An above-average psychodrama with a generally solid script cobbled together from the leftovers of David Fincher and M. Night Shamayalan, "Hypnos" is a creditable attempt to negotiate the kind of complex fiction-or-reality premise that too often shades into either obviousness or incoherence.

With:
With: Cristina Brondo, Demian Bichir, Feodor Atkine, Carlos Lasarte, Julian Villagran, Marisol Membrillo, Natalia Sanchez.

An above-average psychodrama with a generally solid script cobbled together from the leftovers of David Fincher and M. Night Shamayalan, “Hypnos” is a creditable attempt to negotiate the kind of complex fiction-or-reality premise that too often shades into either obviousness or incoherence. Though the script’s subtlety is not always matched by a similar delicacy in its treatment and characterization is practically non-existent, the cannily self-aware storyline mostly carries the movie. Local B.O. has been solid since early October, and interest from horror-friendly territories and genre fests looks likely.

Nurse Beatriz Vargas (Cristina Brondo) arrives at a remote, hi-tech psychiatric institution where Dr. Sanchez Blanc (Feodor Atkine) experiments with hypnosis. Beatriz soon becomes the first person in years to manage to communicate with a child (Natalia Sanchez) who’s been in shock since her arrival. Other inmates include kindly Ulloa (Julian Villagran) and the psychopathic Miguel (Demian Bichir).

Beatriz’s unhappiness with the hospital’s radical methods, however, provokes conflicts with Dr. Zabala (Carlos Lasarte). Meanwhile, alcoholic nurse Elena (Marisol Membrillo), who sleeps with the patients, also becomes a dangerous opponent.

When the child kills herself, Miguel, claiming he’s a policeman sent to investigate, warns Beatriz it was not suicide and she should watch out for herself. From this point, much of what happens is seemingly random and illogical, suggesting a final twist that will pull everything into place. When that twist comes, it works fine, despite a couple of questions left hanging.

The complexities of playing a role suspended somewhere between dream and reality are too much for young thesp Brondo, who, on top of being an unlikely psychiatric nurse, cannot convey the full horror of the nightmare which slowly envelops her. Other perfs are efficient, with Atkine in particular doing a nicely relaxed turn as a chilling Dr. Death.

The unearthly atmosphere of the hospital is nicely rendered, with upfront lensing doing its busy best to rep the movements of a disturbed mind. Editing, like much else on the technical side, is often less than subtle, and sound effects and music are over-employed throughout.

Hypnos

Spain

Production: A UIP release of a DePlaneta production, in association with TVE, Canal Plus, TVC. (International sales: Filmax Intl., Barcelona.) Executive producers, Pau Calpe Rufat, Eneko Lizarraga Arratibel. Directed by David Carreras. Screenplay, Carreras, J.M. Ruiz Cordoba, based on the novel by Javier Azpeitia.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Xavi Gimenez; editor, Frank Gutierrez; music, Oscar Maceda; art director, Josep Rosell; sound (Dolby Digital), Marisol Nievas, Ricard Casals, Gutierrez, Carreras. Reviewed at Palacio de la Prensa, Madrid, Oct. 22, 2004. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Cristina Brondo, Demian Bichir, Feodor Atkine, Carlos Lasarte, Julian Villagran, Marisol Membrillo, Natalia Sanchez.

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