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     It just ain't mesmerizing: Mesmer, the movie, that is. This is the story of 18th century physician Franz Anton Mesmer, who unorthodox practices caused quite a stir in Austria and Paris. Mesmer, as  depicted in this sluggish biopic, believed in the powers of "animal magnetism," which from what I gathered from film is a harnessing and transference of energy from one source to another. Doctors of his time took every opportunity to bleed a patient for a variety of ails. Mesmer's mystical methods did not sit too well with his erstwhile colleagues. He suffered ridicule, ostracization, and finally out-right banishment from his home land. Even as detailed in Mesmer, the results of the good meaning doctor's work are in question. There is no question that he was able to enrapture his patients into a state near hysteria, but the did he cure a blind woman and straighten the backs of peasants burdened by their lot or alleviate the pain of painted French ladies of court? The answers, my friends, are not to found in this well-intentioned, but workmanlike film.

Mesmer defends a patient from the doctors. ŠImage

     Alan Rickman gives it his all as Mesmer, pursing his lips with determination, scrunching his forehead to summon all his bodily energy, and waiving his arms to call on the energy of animal magnetism to stimulate a cure for those he is treating.  Some of the supporting roles are stiffly portrayed and some of the hysteria borders on laughable. But Mesmer counts on Rickman to do the mesmerizing, and while he is solid, he lacks the flamboyance to bring the character to big screen life. 
     Roger Spottiswoode directs in an even-handed manner. The film plays rather at one tone throughout. Production design, aside from some wonderful European buildings, is mundane. The photography is lackluster.
     Much of Mesmer  is shot in dark interiors attempting to replicate the natural light sources of the time. The DVD does a reasonable job of producing enough light output to accurately capture the feeling. Colors are generally muted. Some scenes are slightly soft, likely owing to the original transfer elements. Shadow detail is somewhat murky, again, most likely caused by the style of photography. Some dialogue, especially Mesmer's mutterings when incanting over a patient, is difficult to understand. Other than that, the Dolby 2.0 Digital surround does a pretty good job with the music.





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