Cinema Review: The Sleepwalker | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Sleepwalker

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Mona Fastvold

Nov 24, 2014 Web Exclusive
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The Sleepwalker is a quiet, psychosexual thriller sustained by a mere cast of four. Kaia (Gitte Witt) is restoring her father’s estate in the woods with her boyfriend Andrew (Christopher Abbott), when she receives a midnight call from her troubled sister, Christine (Stephanie Ellis), announcing her sudden visit. Soon following is Christine’s worried fiancé, Ira (Brady Corbet), who is persuaded by Christine to stay the night. As the two couples spend the uneasy weekend together, Christine begins displaying disturbing sexual tendencies that alarm Kaia and make Ira question the sisters’ relationship with their father. Meanwhile Andrew, who has a violent past and can barely tolerate the sudden intruders into his peaceful existence, grows hostile as Ira and Kaia bond over their worries for Christine.

The Sleepwalker takes its time dropping breadcrumb-like hints – a glimpse of a scar here, a candid admission to violence there – but unfortunately the meandering and sinister path leads nowhere satisfying. The two sisters present contradicting memories of their father and a fire that badly scarred Kaia; that, joined with one character going missing late in the film, keeps up the momentum. Yet, the final reveal not only doesn’t answer the mounting questions, it ruins the gripping suspense by solving the mystery of the missing character in a dismissive fashion. That said, one must acknowledge the film for its ability to evoke an unnerving past through characters’ wordless and sometimes unconscious (e.g., sleepwalking) actions. The viewer not only senses that something terrible had happened in the past, but also anticipates that something bad will occur. This type of unevenness permeates director Mona Fastvold’s debut: half of the sexual content feels plot-based and feeds the tension, but there is just as much gratuitous nudity. Minimal cast and location are used to create a tense dynamic and a haunting atmosphere, yet none of the characters are sympathetic, and are only borderline likeable. If the finale was able to match the suspenseful buildup, the scale might have tipped to make The Sleepwalker a remarkable accomplishment, rather than a letdown.

Author rating: 4.5/10

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May 23rd 2015

Sleepwalker had great potential, yet fell short of the mark without significant closure.  One could deduce this was the intent, however, just a tad bit more reveal and character building could have made this a 5 star film…  My personal assessment is that the sisters, or in the least one of them, was incested, physically abused on some level as young girls, perhaps in the garage, by the strict father..perhaps the fire started as revenge toward the father, and as commonly understood in psychology, is to dissociate, even the sleepwalking and other distractions, to forget the abuse, thus the past becomes more like some intangible web in a dreamlike state…We will never really know, and I’m certain this was the desired result by the director…maintaining the edge and shroud of secrecy.

Sabung Ayam
March 20th 2021

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