- 1 hr 34 min
Mesmerized is a sinister drama set in 19th century New Zealand based on a true story. The film follows the life of a young woman named Harriet (Jodie Foster) who is forced to marry an older man named Henry Green (Michael Murphy) in a transaction between her father and Green's father. Harriet's marriage is loveless and brutal, as she is treated as a possession rather than a person. Harriet's lonely and unhappy existence changes when she meets Dr. Emile Plereneau (John Lithgow), a French physician who becomes her mentor and confidant. Dr. Plereneau is a pioneer in the field of hypnosis and mesmerism, and he offers to teach Harriet his techniques in order to help her cope with her unhappy marriage. Mesmerism is a controversial practice back in the day, and at one point in the film, Dr. Plereneau is put on trial for practicing it. As Harriet's lessons with Dr. Plereneau continue, they take on an increasingly intimate and unusual tone. Dr. Plereneau encourages Harriet to explore her sexuality and begins to court her in secret. The line between teacher and lover becomes blurred, and Harriet's feelings towards Plereneau become more complicated. As Harriet becomes more assertive and independent, she struggles to reconcile her loyalty to her cruel husband with her newfound sense of self. The film is visually stunning and showcases the breathtaking natural beauty of New Zealand. The cinematography is moody and atmospheric, with lots of dark shadows and candlelit scenes. The period costumes are impeccable, and the attention to detail in recreating 19th-century life is impressive. Jodie Foster delivers a sensitive and nuanced performance as Harriet, capturing the emotional complexity of a woman who is at once fragile and strong-willed. John Lithgow is deliciously creepy as Dr. Plereneau, exuding a quiet menace that makes the audience question his true intentions. Michael Murphy is suitably slimy as Harriet's abusive husband, Green. The film is masterfully directed by Michael Laughlin, who infuses every scene with tension and suspense. The slow, deliberate pace of the film allows the audience to become fully immersed in the world of Harriet and Dr. Plereneau. The script is based on the true story of Harriet and her role in a sensational 19th-century murder trial, which adds an extra layer of intrigue to the film. Overall, Mesmerized is a fascinating and unsettling film that explores the power dynamics between men and women in the 19th century. The performances are strong, the visuals are stunning, and the story is gripping. Fans of historical dramas and psychological thrillers will find plenty to enjoy in this underappreciated gem from the 1980s.