Hypnosis Under Erasure: Two Annihilations

By: Gary Genosko

Abstract: This article analyzes the important role played by hypnosis in Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Annihilation. It then asks what becomes of hypnosis in the film adaptation of the novel by director Alex Garland as it appears to play no role. It is maintained that hypnosis appears in the film but it is under erasure in the Derridean sense of having been erased, which leaves it legible but in another form, namely, in the special effect called the shimmer. While in Vandermeer’s science fiction hypnotic phenomena serve as synecdoches for passages across the border of Area X into an alien domain, in the film this crossing is a visual trace of the process of induction, hence, walking through the shimmer would be sufficient to induce a hypnotic state. Under erasure, hypnosis looks less and less like itself yet continues to function. Although the history of film contains many examples of hypnosis, the film adaptation is not a counter-example but a robust deployment of hypnosis beyond standard representations.