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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, somehow painfully failed but still worth every star, 18 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Mesmer [DVD] [1994] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
First, I understand well, why some people regard this movie as a failure. Something clearly failed here - or wasn't thought through. It's hard to see, why, since the actors are good, there's clearly a lot of money put into the film and I do like Potter's scripts, even this one. Maybe it's just editing. Or maybe all this was left open to let us think.
The movie then... Mesmer really existed and as far as I know, the movie has the basic facts right. He lived in Austria and was deported. How awful his marriage was, I don't know, but in this movie it's clearly an arrangement, money for the doctor and a civilized and apparently younger husband for a rich woman, who already has a grown son. They say mean things to each other all the time and the son seems cruel and stupid. Cruelty, stupidity and abuse seem to be uncovered everywhere around Mesmer as the movie goes on. I've also read, how many people complain about all the open endings in this movie. 'What happens to the girl? What happens to...?' But Mesmer is thrown away from his old life and forced to leave things - and in life that happens: there are no real endings except death. And a lot is expected from the audience here. When Ooms finally regains her sight, it seems to happen because of an accident, but in hypnosis the surprise effect is very important. They didn't know what they were doing, whether to believe or not, so the unconscious mind had to be jolted. Surprised. Maybe that was the failure of this movie: too much knowledge is expected from us.
The technical flaws... At times particularly Rickman's voice was very hard to hear and the plot seems a bit loose. I admit he's got the most expressive face, eyes, voice and hands in the movie business and for once they were very well portrayed. In fact, the movie seems to rely on them. I was a bit confused, what was the point of the movie. Was it a historical piece, romantic story - it even had some comedy, as great tragedies often have. Mesmer seems to fail, although in real life he actually did cure people. And then he said his bit about how much pain there is in the world and how he could not bare not to be able to do anything to relieve it. And there was the point; that's why Dennis Potter, already dying, wrote the script this way. Even the kissing scene, which to many people seems very romantic and sexy, seemed sad to me. As if Mesmer couldn't believe something like that really happens to him. Even the ending made sense, then. This is a man, whose heart is aching to do something good in a world filled with pain and cruelty, selfishness and ignorance, but fails because one man isn't enough. Even the one he cures isn't saved, because the world doesn't understand what he was trying to do, what he was trying to make people see. Dennis Potter's testament, maybe? After I realized this, the silliest, oddest things seemed to fall into place - like Rickman staring at the moon and playing with his musical instrument in the attic, that was shown over and over again. I suddenly remembered: what do teenagers do, when nobody understands them and they can't get away? They go to their room and play music until their mind becomes blank...
Oh yes, Rickman was born to wear cloaks (see Snape and Sheriff of Nottingham) and white ruffles around his throat, Amanda Ooms is lovely and the acting and the sceneries are great. And to remind, why Rickman is so great as a villain, he gets to throw the boy down the stairs. Suddenly a burst of energy and passion, making the character even more complicated, more human - because that's what Rickman does at his best: complete, complicated, deeply human characters.
It's a very different kind of movie and many may not like it, but it's well worth watching. One gets to see an actor like Rickman far too little, and Dennis Potter was an excellent writer, even if this wasn't his best script. I loved it. It was very different from the super hero and cartoon character movies. We need to be reminded of real humanity and the fragility of people this way, because there seems to be very little room for compassion, pity and understanding in today's world.
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