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Wakeful in an eternity of emptiness

This is a review of Sleeping Beauty (2011)

More views of - or at - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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25 September

This is a review of Sleeping Beauty (2011)

When, in Sleeping Beauty, an elderly man with a white beard (whom we have seen before, and know that he is a pining widower) starts a story that is, frankly, of little real interest, but just an attempt (where others throughout the film may have failed) to be weighty, I nearly did decide to take my eyes off his face and just listen - in the hope, even, that sleep might come (of which Macbeth’s character speak so highly, if not Hamlet’s, likening death to it in ‘what dreams may come’, etc.).

Would that I had either given into that temptation or of making this film the fifth thing that I did not see through to the end in this Festival, because Sleepless in Seattle almost has more to say about life, and without being so needlessly portentous (maybe even, with the same crew, You’ve Got Mail). Whatever journey someone thought that this film was taking the viewer on was not, as far as I am concerned, worth the shoe-leather.

A series of things was presented that were probably intended to make one more feel uncomfortable (although the word ‘series’ might suggest a progression, or some intelligence behind aching voids of silence, slow fades, the blackness before the next scene, etc., which were like forces pulling in contrary directions) – oh, and some of them do, as certain forms of self-willed violence or appropriation almost always will, but, if they do, it might help if there were some basis for them.

I really do not think that the essential premise is tenable, when, whatever the poster might suggest, Emily Browning (as Lucy (Melissa?)) is no pre-Raphaelite beauty (except in terms of hair colour, but certainly not stature, poise or demeanour), makes a noisy job of pouring wine or a brusque one of offering brandy, and does not even seem – although a few books and papers are strewn around in a scene towards the end – very convincing as a student.

And as a student of what – is what we are shown in the lecture-room (analysis of a game of go, and some incomplete notation that is being chalked on the board earlier on) founded on some sort of notion of what games theory or the mathematics behind it is like?

Lucy’s motivation to do what she does is clear enough – she can, she wants to, and she needs money, although, rather slowly, she begins to wonder what she is doing. I begin to wonder what Clara is doing, too, if where she gives various men free rein, but with a fairly arbitrary (and irrelevant) restriction, really is her home – she is supposed to be running some sort of comprehensive ring of young women like Lucy, but that aspect quickly appears more or less forgotten about, I suspect, because she is really needed to bolster the lack of engagement and energy in the role (and playing) of Lucy, and so has to give her personal attention.

However, attention given to Lucy and Clara’s antics will not, I fear, be repaid.

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