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  Sleep Dimensions In Slumber
Year: 2020
Director: Michael Venus
Stars: Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmolzer, Marion Kracht, Agata Buzek, Max Hubacher, Martina Schone-Radunski, Katharina Behrens, Andreas Anke, Benjamin Heinrich, Josefine Schaferhoff, Samuel Weiss, Stefan Both, Yun Huang, Bianca Riebow
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Marlene (Sandra Hüller) is a flight attendant who spends a lot of time in hotels as part of her job, but one of these establishments has had reason to stick in her mind recently. This is down to the dreams she has been going through where the hotel in the small, leafy town of Stainbach in Germany seems to be calling to her through the nightmares she suffers, where she cannot be sure if what she is seeing is real or not. Her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) is well aware of her mother's issues and is trying to help her through them as best she can, but the fact remains she can only do so much and after a particularly bad spell where Marlene has been forced into a near-coma by her visions, Mona goes through her scribblings to find out more...

Evidently in thrall to David Lynch, director and co-writer Michael Venus made his feature debut with Sleep, of Schlaf if you were German, a deliberately obscure presentation of the dream world affecting the conscious realm in such a way as to pose a threat to the characters, but not in A Nightmare on Elm Street kind of way, well, not really. Certainly the concern that if you die in the dream world you will die in reality is constantly bearing down on the characters, and Venus made great play of making us unsure of what was actually happening by combining the surreal with the everyday, shot in a purposefully matter of fact fashion that would have all but the most dedicated audience close to confounded at some point in the running time, at the very least.

Those visuals were the film's strongest point even if we were unsure of how far the characters were shaping what we were seeing, and indeed what they were experiencing. After Marlene winds up stuck in a mental hospital bed for most of the rest of the movie, we follow Mona as she moves into the hotel nearby to it, turning detective as many characters do in key Lynch works and finding she is moving between two dimensions unwittingly as she investigates, almost as if sleepwalking at times, what is going on. But what is going on? You could easily be none the wiser at the end than you were at the beginning - a boar? An incubus? A potential neo-Nazi uprising? That last was intriguing for a film made in Germany, for Venus appeared to be warning that his country's nostalgia mixed with guilt they do not wish to address could be their undoing once again.

Kohlhof did well in a tricky role in that much of the focus was on her, as she was the person we were relying to work out what was happening, though too often she was at the mercy of other characters buffeting her around the hotel and its surroundings, not to mention the dream world that could interrupt her at any moment. Mona is not exactly a conventional heroine herself, as she arrives at the hotel with no luggage, having taken the bus straight over from the hospital, and this is another movie where being a vegetarian means you take a facefull of meat at one stage; she also never explains to anyone else, even the more sympathetic characters, what she is trying to achieve, possibly because she does not know herself. That's not much help to the viewers, but what seems to be transpiring is a variation on Twin Peaks, where an old evil is making its presence felt once again and Mona (along with some others) must do her level best to combat it, which she does by, er, getting tied up and knocked out a lot. If our heroine was troublingly passive, the compensation was you could simply enjoy the deceptively bland imagery as it regularly lapsed into nightmare, a neat trick the self-aware film employed multiple times. Music by Sebastian Damerius and Johannes Lehniger.

[Available on Arrow. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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