Sunday, October 5, 2008

In Depth Review: Sleeping Man

Sleeping Man (1996, Kôhei Oguri)

Briefly, the story revolves around the citizens of a small, predominantly quite Japanese town snuggled between some high mountains. One of their own, a man named Takuji, had an accident while in the mountains once and is now in a coma. For how long? We don’t know. The people of this town worry dearly for him, although that emotion is not shown over dramatically in their speech.

Conversations about Takuji, his accident and the area in general take center stage here. The dialogue is soft spoken and very insightful about the customs and habits of these townspeople. Historical fables, the soul, the meaning of names and other particularities are all discovered as the movie goes along through their conversations. What’s interesting is how these tidbits come into play later on. On intriguing scene has Takuji’s soul ‘blown away’ in the wind. His family and friends then begin a hunt for his soul, searching and making loud noises in the hopes that they may attract it back. It sounds silly bit these people are taking this very seriously and it’s fascinating to see unfold. There’s a brilliant sequence of shots which shows al the places we have visited to be empty: everyone is searching for the soul… Another sequences features an astonishing ritual performed before a sitting crowd and involves some of the most unique music this viewer has ever heard. One of the characters, a personal friend of Kikujiro, narrates to us that the people of this town appreciate the ceremony because it brings the living and spirit world togethor in contact. It's another example of how Sleeping Man simply wants to bring the featured community to life.

All these discussions are permitted to flourish thanks to the deliberately slow pace. Scenes are allowed to breath and we, as the viewers, all invited to admirer it all. The location shots are oftentimes impressive for the natural beauty they put on display. The conversations themselves are the perfect window into the lives of these citizens. Their slow pace allowed me to imagine and ponder what was being discussed. Director Oguri pulls off a real coup here because despite the fact that their really isn’t a lot of dialogue, one can’t help but feel that a lot is being said. When someone is talking, the viewer can hang on to their every word and learn more about this beautiful world.

Sleeping Man is not for everyone. Anyone who is averse to slow pacing may not find this movie digestible. Anyone who wants their movies to serve up intricate plots and twists won’t find this entertaining in the least. But for anyone who just wants to sit back and explore a world, its customs, its people and their stories, I implore you to get your hands on this movie.

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