Sundance Film Festival 2014 – US Dramatic Competition
In her feature directorial debut, Mona Fastvold’s The Sleepwalker explores the relationship of a young couple, Kaia (Gitte Witt) and Andrew (Christopher Abbott), after Kaia’s sister Christine (Stephanie Ellis) and fiancé Ira (Brady Corbet) unexpectedly move in. Set in a secluded family estate, the mansion like house represents a key point to the film taking on a haunted house quality but instead of ghosts, the home sets the scene for dark family secrets that spring up when the two couples intersect.
Family secrets and jealousies arise which cause escalating conflict. Christine, who not only goes on long, strange sleepwalking jaunts, also suffers from a distorted perception of reality. Her reality draws the other three into her tangled web which soon creates more tension and violence.
With this film so focused on back story, Fastvold often leaves issues lingering and questions unanswered. Andrew asks about some missing bags of cement that does not pay off. Why go to the trouble of setting up a problem only to not address it later?
Like a long mansion passageway that leads nowhere, sometimes scenes simply dead end. The film sets out to set tension, especially with the haunting horror style music, only to fizzle out.
The film offers a unique sense of style with long hand held tracking shots and lingering images but like much of the rest of the film doesn’t pay off in the end. It as though the director had moments of great vision but then ended up sleepwalking through the finish.