Opinions seem to be divided when it comes to Derren Brown, or illusionists in general really. There are some who are fascinated by them, captivated by their intricacy so much that it feels magical; then there are the others who know it’s fake, finding it more boring and infuriating than anything else.
Whereas opinions differ, Derren Brown usually comes in between both things. He never claims to be a magician, only a hypnotist, mathematician, mentalist, painter and writer. Derren Brown denounces all paranormal and psychic ideas, refusing all accusations and claims that he has these supposed abilities. Instead, he reads people so well that it is almost supernatural by influencing their body language then deciphering it to be seemingly reading their mind.
He does say he uses magic but not in the cloak and wizard’s hat sense but through misdirection and psychology to seem like he has a power that does not exist.
The start of the series starts with the story of Sirhan Sirhan, the murderer of state senator Bobby Kennedy, who, to this day, claims to have no recollection of assassinating him with massive gaps in the weeks running up. Brown then goes to prove to see if this is even possible and if the supposed ‘60s CIA hypnosis programme, in which they use unwitting suspects to murder, could have actually worked.
In this, he finds an unwitting man to control whose willing and easily led to do this experiment. He releases no information about what his intentions are, only making it seem like he can make him sit in a bath of ice unknowing of its temperature which is too painful – and dangerous – to fake. We then follow Derren Brown’s further hypnotism; he trains him to be a marksman, to forget things, to make him do anything for him as soon as he’s under his spell with polka dot induced amnesia.
This is the most interesting episode which delves into the human psyche and the possibility of being controlled and not remembering it all. It’s a daunting thought, this could be happening to you or friends and they’d never know.
The Game Show.
In this, Derren Brown challenges the conventions of mob mentality, pretending to host a game show called Remote Control where the audience are controlling the situations around an ordinary man. There are always two options to choose from, one positive and one negative. As the experiement goes on, the choices become more radical, more hostile, more negative, potentially ruining a stranger’s night for no reason.
As the programme continues, the people progress to be more anonymous and more of a mob. With this illusion of anonymity and the mob forming, they feel a safety in numbers and think more primal, with a nastiness that their cynicism is probably creating. Derren Brown explores the human psyche, showing that everyone is susceptible to this problem.
The Guilt Trip.
Is it possible to make a man confess to a murder he didn’t commit? According to this episode, it happens a lot of the time anyway where people are tricked into feeling guilt for something they didn’t commit until they break down and wrongly confess.
Derren Brown explores how easy it would be to manipulate a good, honest man into confessing to a crime he definitely wouldn’t commit. Through giving him doubt, memory loss and motive, he then believes he committed the murder of Mr Black. Its clear anti-religion message is easy to pick up on, saying that they use guilt to manipulate their followers is an interesting message that Derren wants to slam home.
The Secret of Luck.
The last of the series ends with a flourish. In this, Derren Brown visits a small northern town named Todmorden and through a third party, he starts a rumour of a lucky dog that, after patting on the head or rubbing an item on its head, should bring you good fortune. This is a brilliant look into the simplicity of spreading a rumour of luck and the after-effects that it brings.
It brings the idea of luck into the forefront of the mind. If you think you’re lucky, you take more opportunities and therefore you feel luckier when things go in your favour. Pretty much, luck isn’t real – as we know, there’s no divine force controlling things – instead it’s your outlook and perception of life; if you feel lucky and like the world is on your side then when things go right, you’ll feel that’ll be your reason.
It’s an extraordinary take on something simplicity that ends in such a high-risk moment you feel tense for those around you.
All these episodes add up to a great delve into the interesting attributes of the human mind. What’s achieved is four hours of sometimes hard to believe stuff – and that is not meant negatively! It’s highly entertaining and completely enthralling, as hour by hour fades away, clawing at the way you think and your suddenly apparent self-conscious.
If you did not watch this on TV then watching this without any advert breaks will be a massive blessing. The breaks would leave you thinking too much to enjoy it as much as it’d be less free flowing and constant. If you are interested at all in hypnosis, misdirection, illusions or psychology then this programme is definitely for you. The power of the human mind is boggling and it’s scary that it might need someone else to unlock its power.
Extras: The extras weren’t available for review but they were listed on the release to have commentary and previously unseen footage. Nothing spectacular but how could it be?
Derren Brown: The Experiments is released on the 15th of October with a RRP of £13.99.