Stanley’s wet dream.

Aaah arthouse films. They’re like high level university lectures. Clearly full of important information and ideas, but so often suicidally boring. There are some film that I consider to be both arthouse and incredibly entertaining, like Drive and pretty much every Paul Thomas Anderson film ever, but the overwhelming majority of them have the same effect on me as Ambien.

How fitting, then, that the latest arthouse film I watched was in fact about sleeping. Well, it’s not really. As we all know the whole point of arthouse movies is to use film as a medium in order to explore a deeper theme. So what is Sleeping Beauty really about then?

Hold your horses, let’s explain the plot first:

“A haunting portrait of Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires.”

– IMDB

Damnit, that hardly explained a thing. Alright IMDB, I’ll do it for you then.

Basically the movie is about a this girl who does all sorts of odd jobs to pay her bills. One day she answers a very mysterious ad for a vaguely described job. Whatever it is, it’s sleazy, degrading, and turns out to be possibly even dangerous. Some of you may not want to know the details before you see the film, so I will give you the chance to opt out…

SPOILER ALERT

It’s not really a spoiler, since the clue is in the title, but the job requires her to sleep. She is drugged, stripped naked, and placed in a large bed. As she sleeps, sexual and sadistic actions are performed upon her unconscious body.

SPOILERS FINISHED

So, now what is it really about? Well it seemed to me to be a commentary on employment. Lucy has so many jobs, all of them awful. She clearly doesn’t enjoy them, but also doesn’t complain about them. She lives to work. Her social life is in disarray and almost non existent, but her work life is constantly booming.

One begins to wonder about the nature of work itself, particularly having a job that you don’t like. We’ve all had jobs that we hated and pushed through them in order to achieve a career more in line with our passions, but is this really healthy? When does it go too far? Are you not selling yourself in some way when you perform actions simply for the money. You could argue that we’re all whores, accepting cash in exchange for a large chunk of our lives. It also shows Lucy as a constant servant, never allowing herself to enjoy anything. Therefore, the deeper question becomes “what makes a worthwhile life? and “what is life for?”. If you spend all your life serving others and never allowing yourself to ‘stop and smell the roses’, have you wasted your time?

The film has been described as very Kubrickian, and it is. Almost every single scene is done in one take, usually with very flat, wide angle, long shots. There’s no denying that Sleeping Beauty is heavily inspired by Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which features much of the same photographic style and imagery. The concept is to shoot sexy things in a very unsexy way, thereby generating a sense of awkwardness and displeasure in the audience. It’s interesting, but kinda loses its gravitas when it’s regurgitated into 2011.

Sleeping Beauty (2011) trailer

Finally, did I like it? Errm, kinda. I sort of did, but also sort of didn’t. The movie feels like it’s very up it’s own ass, which becomes a problem for me. If there’s anything I hate, it’s a pretentious movie. Here is a shining example of filmmakers truly believing in their own genius to the point of nausea. The scenes didn’t need to be done in one single take, random characters didn’t need to monologue spontaneously, and ultimately a lot of the nudity felt like it didn’t need to be there either. Every person in the film has dialogue that no one would ever say, because…it’s artsy. For example, who tells someone “fuck you to death”? That’s not right, people don’t talk like that. I like the ideas here, they just seem to get a bit bogged down by the style. Overall it’s an average result for me.

Rant Over!

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