Saturday, 24 October 2015
In the middle of a city, there is an add for a hypnotist, with the title "How to rule others". The hypnotist sits on his table and makes a dozen of people watching him do whatever he is doing, from putting their hands in the position of a prayer up to simulating piercing their cheeks with a long needle. The hypnotist then teaches another man how to hypnotize, and hypnotist II tries out his power, enjoying making people do whatever he wants. Finally, hypnotist II orders the men to take their shirts off and then pierces their abdomen with a needle, connecting them all with a thread. Afterwards, the people leave the place.
One of the rare short films by director Vlatko Gilic, "Power" caused such a controversy during its premiere in Yugoslavia that the authorities made it more and more difficult for the director to make any further film, until he directed his last one only seven years later. Watching "Power" makes it immediately clear why some might feel nervous about its existence: it is an extremely pervasive and uncomfortable allegory of totalitarian regimes, and inherently an universal contemplation of why society should be divided into people who rule and people who are ruled at all. With no actor credited and no dialogue spoken, "Power" was somewhere wrongly described as an documentary, yet it is clearly a fictional film since many scenes are undeniably directed (the camera looking directly into the hypnotist's eyes; the perfectly centralized frame of the hypnotist waving his hand and ordering the dozen of people to move left or right...), and Gilic himself admitted that there was a casting, though at least two chilling moments were real (the hypnotist piercing his cheeks with a long needle and the second hypnotist piercing people's abdomen with a needle and a thread). It is an unabated essay about control and the perverted enjoyment of power, with several expressionistic scenes of the second hypnotist who makes intoxicated, grotesque smirks as he seemingly enjoys making people do whatever he orders them, such as the scene where he makes a hesitating man lick a white substance on his all fours. One can interpret this 30-minute short in numerous ways (a critique of the Bolshevik-Nazi regimes, the religious control and fanaticism, government media control, government making people unwillingly go to war...) though Gilic actually tapped at an non-political, universal theme in his frequent quest for research of the human essence - in this case if the instinct for domination (not just in masses, but in even smaller groups, like in a marriage between two people) is inborn in people.