AS THE BROKEN PIECES WERE HELD TOGETHER IN BETWEEN BY MELATONIN
by AE PAULINO
Sleeping Beauty (2011) - Written & Directed by Julia Leigh. Starring: Emily Browning, Rachel Blake, and Ewen Leslie
In cognitive science, I am aware of the so-far human phenomenon which allows our brains to collect partial impressions from the external world and internally compile them into one complete picture. We fill in the blanks, connect the dots, continue patterns, draw conclusions, and all from, at times, so limited a quantity or quality of information. Highly useful for brains wired, through survival adaptations, for rational thought and problem solving. No doubt, it paid off, both to our ancestors and eventually us, to daw inferences from clues; say a lion's paw print in mud, a nearby, newly killed antelope, a growl, and then a moving bush, where would we be today if these things remained separate in the brain, never cross-referenced by memory or experience?
However great this organization of thought and ability to perceive whole forms, whether shapes, ideas, or compositions, from segmented parts, I feel it is exactly this cognitive tendency, that director Julia Leigh takes certain liberties with which to express her story in her 2011 directorial debut, Sleeping Beauty.
The film follows university student, Lucy who struggles with money and works serving tables at some cafe/restaurant, as a receptionist of some sort at an office, and occasionally picks up random men for what I believe would be paid sex. She comes across an ad in the student paper and discovers a highly discreet, upscale erotic gig, that pays well albeit clients not requiring her services as frequent to allow her to quit her other jobs. Lucy is eventually used in an erotic sleep fetish, where she is drugged into somnolent absence and a client may do as he or she pleased with her so long as there is no penetration or marks left on her slumbering body.
The film was eerie, with a dull, classic-furniture look that is too expensive to touch but really not comfortable or inviting in the first place. To its defense however, any stylistic visuals or change in tone or color would have subtracted from this film, a complimentary atmosphere between the language of image and story. This being said, the scenes never fully informed us, only hinted and assured us time was passing by. Lucy neither grew nor shrunk, even with her slight breakdown at the end, I had no more idea of who she was in the conclusion than I had at the film's commencement.
It was like being told a story by a secretive person who didn't want to reveal anything. The result, I wouldn't say was a bad one--Just, plenty of questions remained. The main, for me, was that of the main character Lucy--Who was she? What was she really doing? Events happened but what did they do to her, how did they effect her? She carried on, just as the 30 year old referenced in the anecdotal short story recounted by one of sleep clients. It was as if she was herself was asleep throughout the entire film. Perhaps, this was the point. Its a reminder of how we at times sleep through our lives, omitting the full details when in retrospect we can always reform the full picture from the partial impressions, however altered they may then become. At the risk of not respecting the weight of our many choices and reactions that gather up into the direction we take in life. Or maybe the film is just saying I need to sleep more.