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Inside the mind: Josh Lucas goes dark in ‘Murderous Trance’

Josh Lucas stars in the film, “Murderous Trance.” (Courtesy of myCinema/Nikola Predović)

Josh Lucas enjoys to be diverse in his movie roles.

With his latest, “Murderous Trance,” Lucas stars as Björn Schow Nielsen, the notorious criminal and master of mind control.

The role is a departure from his usual character portrayals.

“The character is extraordinary and what a brilliant mad man,” Lucas says. “It’s always fun to mess around in the realm of the Hannibal Lector. This guy was real.”

“Murderous Trance” is a psychological thriller based on the true story of a series of hypnosis crimes that took place in post-war Denmark in the 1950s.

It was filmed in a distinct post-war aesthetic on location in Denmark and Croatia.

It follows criminal investigator Anders Olsen, played by Asbæk, as he investigates a case in which a bank robber shoots two bank clerks before fleeing to the streets of Copenhagen with the money.

With the help of a hypnotist, played by Rade Šerbedžija, Olsen discovers a deeper mystery involving mind control and the charismatic criminal Nielsen, played by Lucas, who secretly befriends the investigator’s young wife, bringing the menace ever closer to the investigator.

As Nielsen, Lucas is the mastermind behind the hypnosis crimes.

Pilou Asbæk plays Anders Olsen, who is the Danish police detective who is pursuing Nielson.

Asbaek was drawn to the project because it’s not a typical Hollywood story.

Asbæk has appeared in “Ben-Hur” and “Game of Thrones.” “Murderous Trance” was a departure for him as well.

“When you do characters base don real life people, you have to treat it with respect,” Asbæk says. “Anders is established as one of the old-school guys that fought for justice and what’s right in life.”

Arto Halonen directed the film.

He has been busy promoting the film as it rolls out in select theaters in November. It had a run at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe recently.

“It’s bene a really long process,” Halonen says. “I started this process and I was reading a lot of hypnosis topics and curious about self improvement and how those things influence people. I was going through education for holistic education.”

Halonen came across Nielsen’s story and was intrigued about the power of the mind.

“He was hypnotizing people to rob banks,” he says. “It’s something that is amazing to see. The police worked to figure all of this out. The story is part of history.”

Lucas jumped on the project because he’s been fascinated with Finnish directors.

Hanolen fit the bill.

“I was getting familiar with his work,” Lucas says. “He has substantial knowledge about not only this subject but about the ideas of using hypnosis and trance-like states from a personal level. When you speak to Arto, you can see why this film has deeply personal knowledge underneath it.”

Lucas enjoyed portraying Nielsen because it’s a weird horror.

“Being inside of a mind that doesn’t have empathy and finding out that everything he is doing is a game is scary,” Lucas says. “Arto spoke very clearly to me on how (President) Donald Trump and mass media are absolutely ways that the world is being hypnotized. There was a joyful exploration to plunge myself into thinking. For me, as an actor, it allowed me to stretch myself.”

Asbæk enjoyed portraying Olsen because he is similar to Asbaek’s grandfather.

“He was working in the resistance and he was the first one to be arrested,” Asbæk says. “My grandfather was the silent hero who didn’t want to take center stage. Anders is like that too.”

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