Sunday, January 1, 2012

on Sleeping Beauty (the 2011 movie)

I have a big internet crush on this guy and I follow his blog religiously even though he only posts short little updates. He's a writer himself, with awesome taste in books and movies and things like that, so it's a great thing to read if you wanna find new stuff to get into.

He kept recommending 'Sleeping Beauty' - the movie made in 2011 by Julia Leigh and starring Emily Browning. This is the trailer, and now that I think about it, I saw the trailer about 6 months ago and got really excited about the movie then just forgot all about it. Such is the internet. You should also know that it's explicit - don't watch it with your parents or your kids. Seriously. Don't believe the name. No kids are allowed to watch this movie. Ever.

Most of the summaries I found on the internet seemed to miss the mark by so many kilometers that I think the people who wrote them didn't even see the film, so this is how I would describe it to someone who hasn't seen it:

This movie is about a young woman in modern Australia who volunteers her body - apparently out of financial necessity - to all manner of uses and the story follows her deeply troubled daily life for several months. She is offered a job which involves complete unconsciousness, secrecy, and submission to clients and she readily accepts, but as the job begin to affect her life, the mystery of what actually happens in the 'Sleeping Beauty Chamber' becomes too much for her to handle and she becomes determined to find out.

I have to say it was exquisite but also a very sad kind of haunting. There was hardly any music throughout the entire film, dialogue was minimal and the scenes themselves often graphic and confronting. Besides a deep sadness, sympathy and perhaps fear were the only emotions I really felt - but this emotional starkness was far from boring. I did not feel particular connection to any of the characters and yet I was totally invested in what might happen next. (An unusual combination considering we usually find ourselves most engrossed in movies which illicit the most emotion, no?) It was totally absorbing. 

This might or might not have something to do with the fact that it was also supremely baffling. I'm serious. It's only downfall was that on occasion it was just so pretentious that it was quite unclear. I mean, I feel almost embarrassed to say so because clearly some other people must have understood a lot more about it than I did? I'm trying to be honest here when I say that I have NO IDEA who 'The Bird Man' really was, or who that lady on the bus was or why "how long have you been doing this?" is such a bad question to ask someone in that position? If you haven't seen it, obviously none of those things are going to make any sense, but if you have - did you understand them? And if so, PLEASE TELL ME.

In truth, I do kind of like the idea of this theme - that nothing was ever justified or explained and the audience were never spoken down to, but it just went too far. Too often these mysteries seemed forced and it made the film seem, at times, too tryhard. Too wannabe arthouse.

I do also feel bound to mention how visually beautiful a lot of it was. Beauty is obviously a theme explored (and explored damn well, might I add) and it's a great movie for the aesthetics alone. Lots of well-placed imagery, symbolic colour schemes and clothing, and super realism sometimes then surrealism other times. It's kind of like a work of art a lot of the time. Something to be appreciated with a constant keen eye.

Emily Browning was excellent. I mean seriously really amazing excellent. With so many intense and freaky things happening to her but with such little dialogue it could have easily turned awkward, but she handled it really brilliantly and I think credit here should also go to Julia Leigh for her direction. The vision is carried through the whole film. Top to bottom. There is just such obvious style and mood and feeling that the word 'pure' comes to mind. It's like this woman had a vision and was actually able to capture it perfectly on screen. To say I look forward to her future work is a massive understatement. She is withoutadoubt a name we need to look out for. 

I just read (because I'm researching the movie as I write this) that she was first a novelist, having published Disquiet in 2008 and The Hunter in 1999, so I'm obviously going to go check those out next. (Read: you should also do that.) Oh - and apparently there is a film based on The Hunter being released! More googling to come then, I suppose. What is SUPER COOL though, is that the script for Sleeping Beauty was on the 2008 Hollywood blacklist which is a thing you really need to look at right now. There's one list every year so you can read the 2011 one right now too, and the kinds of scripts that get put on these lists are, like, some of the best movies ever. (Examples from that 2008 list being Easy A, Inglorious Bastards and Sherlock Holmes. I know. I told you. So much awesome.) So yeah, I officially have a big crush on this lady.


Which, for me, was it's Australian-ness.

I normally get kind of embarrassed by Australian movies. Dude, come on, I know you do too. They so often seem so unpolished and so often are just boring. There seems to be this trend of-late to deal with bleakness and barrenness which just seems really dumb and boring when it's not done well. The Australian movies you hear about usually have something to do with the outback when in reality most Australians in cities have never seen a kangaroo in the wild, and often I swear the small/independent-made scripts deal with Aboriginal dreamtime stories just to get government grants. Samson and Delilah is just about the only example of those themes done well, and I was genuinely happy to see it successful. But it's the exception to the rule of Australiana films so far.
Then you get Hollywood/Australia medleys like Australia, which is the second highest grossing film to come from our shores - only behind Crocodile Dundee. COME ON PEOPLE.

Sleeping Beauty gives me hope for the future of our industry. It's totally unique and it's brand new and it's all-Australian. It makes me proud and excited.

What's more, is that it's origin was a complete surprise to me! You'll notice that the trailer is spoken by this woman (below, left) from the movie and she has a British accent. So I thought it was a British movie! It wasn't until I actually began watching it that I realised it was entirely Australian.


What's also interesting, is that I think I felt this movie much more deeply than I would have had it been American or even British. I have come to realise that there is a certain automatic distance I feel with a movie that has foreign accents. When a person is crying out in anguish, it means a lot more to hear it from a familiar voice than one with any kind of foreign twangs. Even the outfits and the scenery were familiar, and these make the little glimpses you get into average life within the movie totally believable and realistic - from a uniquely Australian perspective. It's a luxury not usually afforded to us Australian movie-lovers and I want you to know that I'm deeply grateful for it.

I mean, Emily Browning's character is a young, female, Australian uni student. Even her bedroom in her shared house looked vaguely familiar. Would I have liked this movie so much had I not felt so profoundly similar to the lead? I'm not sure, I guess that's for you to decided. Unless you're also a young, female, Australian uni student. In which case - WATCH THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW. OKAY GO.

It has just occurred to me that the dude whose blog I mentioned at the beginning of this post as being the catalyst for me seeing this movie is not only male, but American and not at university. And I think he's cool/clever and he liked it. So there you go. Don't be disheartened!

All in all, if you're a relatively intelligent person who appreciates mystery and darkness and beauty then I think you should watch this movie. Just make sure you're, you know, alone. And with some pre-planned post-movie-thinking-time scheduled into your day.

1 comment:

  1. this movie is BRILLIANT. supremely sad and very wtf but very good.


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