Thursday, October 27, 2011

The nature of sleep, the nature of life. (Sleeping Beauty)

By s. Thursday, October 27, 2011 , , ,
Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles 
Somnophilia (from Latin "somnus" = sleep and Greek φιλία, "-philia" = love) is a paraphilia in which sexual arousal or orgasm are stimulated by intruding on and awakening a sleeping person with erotic caresses, but not with force or violence.
Only once in a blue moon a movie comes along that fascinates me so much even after I write a review on it, I still feel being haunted by it. Lucy, the heroine of Julia Leigh's fascinating and stunning directorial debut is more fascinating than Justine in "Melancholia" - another of this year's tortured souls. It's not even that Lucy is sad or depressed - in fact she is one of the strongest characters I've seen. But as facing the end of the World comes easy to depressed Justine who has nothing to lose, living comes easy to Lucy, who basically just swims through time and events, cold, strong, unmoved. What makes her so special is that no matter what life throws at her her emotionless state allows her to deal with it. She has multiple jobs - she never complains. Her friend is dying - she stands by him strongly. She has money trouble - no problem, she finds a way to handle with it, But money bring her no joy - in one of the movie's most haunting moments Lucy burns a banknote, because it means nothing to her, because she made so many that night, she simply can do it. And if she can do something, she just goes ahead and does it.
Lucy is an occasional prostitute. Why? Because as with everything else sex doesn't mean much to her. It is not profound, beautiful or emotional. It's just like anything else. So Lucy turns it into something she can use - a job. She doesn't see any harm in her actions, she doesn't even think about them - throughout the film Lucy is shown going from one place to another, with the same attitude, same expression on her beautiful face. Whether she is talking to the potential client, making copies at work, sitting in the classroom in her university, she always seems the same. The only difference is seen in her when she meets with her friend - hopeless alcoholic - and they fall into their routine. They talk to each other as an old married couple, they do mundane things, like eating or watching TV. But since Lucy is a part-time hooker and he is an alcoholic who can't stop drinking even for a moment we are reminded of they reality and they must be too, at least on some level, when Lucy makes him peculiar kind of breakfast - instead of milk she purrs vodka on cereal. Is she helping him? Because she wants to spare him the pain of withdrawal? Or is she doing that just to keep their routine living? The only warmth that is around Lucy is when she is seen with her friend. But it's pretended warmth - she smiles and hugs him because she feels safe with him and perhaps, senses that he is as damaged as she is. Lucy's drug is her coldness - it's her shield in this world, something that helps her go on living. His drug is alcohol - something that helps him forget. Two sleepwalking souls, decaying together.
Another of Lucy's peculiar behaviors involves asking man around her if they will marry her. She does so, only to hear them say yes and have some illusion of control in her life. Perhaps that's way she walks through her existence not being attached to anything - her sister, mother, her jobs. Because she wouldn't be able to have control. If she cared for someone, she would be devastated if they were gone - she breaks down when her friend decides to die. She also does it to compensate for some things she does in her job - the job itself may not matter to her but what is being done to her leaves a mark. Lucy is being used in most of her jobs - she has to make copies for demanding boss, she is sleeping with men she doesn't know, she is involved in medical lab experiments of some kind - in the movie's first scene Lucy has to swallow a flexible instrument, the kind that is used in gastroskopy. She almost vomits and looks uncomfortable, but she still comes back to do it again. On some level Lucy may be addicted to being used without realizing it and that's why in certain situations she obsessively looks for control.
After having sold her body on occasion Lucy finds and ad and calls to set a meeting. Then she meets up with Madame who is running a peculiar kind of brothel - they host parties where the girls serve their clients drinks and food, wearing weird fetish clothes that expose their private parts. Lucy gets a job but as the only one among the girls, she gets to wear something different - white lingerie. Among tall, skinny girls dressed in black, she looks like the innocence incarnated. So she quickly draws attention to herself, just because of the way she looks. Men at the party don't care she seems lifeless, calm, almost like revived doll.  Soon after that she becomes a professional in the brothel and her specialization is sleeping while clients come to see her. It's not explicitly stated anywhere in the film if they come to see her because they suffer from sommophilia or because they feel ashamed enough to see concious girl. Throughout the film we see three clients - also three approaches to Lucy and the possible reasons as to why they decided to engage in this bizarre and very disturbing proceedings. The first client is a widower - it can be speculated that because he loved her, he always saw her as beautiful and fragile - just as Lucy appears when she is sleeping. The client just lies next to sleeping Lucy and gently touches her. It's almost as if all he wanted was to sleep next to someone  who remindes him of the woman he lost.
The second client is a sadist, who calls unconscious Lucy horrible names, is brutal towards her, treats her in humiliating way and finally - burns her neck with a cigarette. That's the kind of man, who if was younger and in a better shape would with most certainty do even worse things to women. Perhaps he is engaging in this, because Lucy is unconscious and cannot defend herself. Or perhaps he is doing this because he no longer feels like a man and that is the only way for him to remember the feeling. After Lucy wakes up and discovers the burn she tells Madame about it, but still comes back to the job.
The third and final client is a complete opposite of the second one - he appears to have a prince complex - picks naked Lucy up and carries her in his arm. And then he ends up humiliated - he drops her, because he is not strong enough and is disenchanted with the situation. We don't know what happens next because the scene fades to black, but that was presumably it.
And then the first client gets back, to die.  He wants to die in his sleep, next to Lucy.
Throughout the film Lucy is doing boring things - she either goes from job to job or is shown sleeping alone in her room, later on in her new apartment, surrounded by huge windows without curtains. That leads me to two conclusions - Lucy, who in the final scene is revealed to be scared of dying, doesn't realize how her present situation feels a lot like death. She has no emotional connection with anyone in her job. The restaurant where she tidies things up at the end of the day is the place where she causally chats with her work colleague. She is charming, she is smiling and making jokes, but again - she is pretending without even realizing it. She doesn't care for him, it wouldn't make a difference for her, if that guy wasn't there. The same goes for Lucy's boss at the place where she makes copies - Lucy ignores her for most of the time and doesn't appear to want to hold the job at all. When she is fired, she is not upset. She simply goes on "living". The lack of curtains symbolizes lack of shame - Lucy sleeps naked and she's not bothered by the fact she is lying right next to the window. Then she recalls how much it is similar to her "sleeping beauty" job and gets up to put on panties - that's one of the few times in the film Lucy shows actual fractions of having feelings about something. In one scene, just before she gets her first gig as Sleeping Beauty, before getting in the car Lucy picks up poison berries from the tree. Then she opens her hands and lets them slip through her fingers and drop on the ground. Just as she does in her life - she let's it slip through her fingers, leaving her imperturbable.
"If I kissed you one more time to help you face the nightmare but you're far too poisoned for me 
Such a fool to think that i could wake you from your slumber, that I could actually heal you
Sleeping beauty poisoned and hopeless, far beyond a visible sign of your awakening 
Failing miserably to find a way to comfort you, far beyond a visible sign of you awakening
And hiding from some poisoned memory, poisoned and hopeless sleeping beauty"
- "Sleeping Beauty", A Perfect Circle

Two things happen that lead to inevitable - Lucy's awaking. It's not a kiss from a handsome prince - it's death. First her friend dies voluntarily, he commits suicide and finds eternal sleep. Then a client does the same, right next to Lucy. Night before that happens Lucy takes some drugs and spends a night with her co-worker. Drugs mixed with the special tea Madame makes for Lucy to put her deep in her sleep almost kill her. When she wakes up, having realized how close she came to dying herself, having seen cold corpse of an old men next to her, Lucy burst into tears. Things have been piling up through her life and it took for them all to collide and explode causing her hysteria and resulting in the ultimate "wake up" call.
Lucy snaps out of her sleepwalking - at one point in the film she says "the fear of dying is a hoax". But its her own life that's a hoax. While other people have so much pain in their lives they could only kill themselves to make it better, Lucy is gambling with her fate and risking dying everyday. Instead of living she does unnecessary or dull things, when she finally has time for herself she goes to sleep. Now, she can finally start her life. The movie ends with the image from her video camera, that she set up being curious about what goes on when she is asleep. We see her lying next to dead man, sleeping, oblivious to the proximity of death. The footage is presumably being seen by Lucy and here is where the big irony hides - she videotaped "boring" encounter were nothing happened to her body and she was probably under impression that this is what's going on every time clients come to see her - that those people die next to her. Almost as if she was toxic, poisonous.And now she is finally free to change it.

descriptions: wikipedia
graphics: Sati
review of the film 


  1. Wow, this really helped clear some things up. Very insightful. Thanks!

  2. This is the most accurate review about the movie I've ever seen, thank you so much! Amazing!

  3. Congratulations for the very nice review. I just watched the movie and I was missing some points. What you said (or the most of it) fit quite well the gaps I had. I'd just like to add my point of view regarding the end. Adding to your view about irony, I think the biggest issue is that in the final scene you can't tell sleep from death. They are both motionless, as if both of them were dead. And for me that was the keypoint: passing by life, or, metaphorically speaking, sleeping through life, is as good as being dead. She only got to "wake up" (after almost dying) after 'living a little' and breaking her habits. I think it was a great meaningful ending.

    Thank you!

  4. I have searched and searched online now for three days for a review that could help my simple mind understand this movie. You have answered all my questions.. very very insightful.

    Your words were as beautiful as the movie they were describing.. Thank you

  5. I just found this review after perusing the internet while watching Sleeping Beauty.

    Excellent, excellent work. This is by far the most accurate review I've seen on the film. Insightful and digs beneath the (sometimes hard to watch) surface that the film provides.