The concept of the "small town" is known to all, whether you've lived your whole life in a noisy concrete jungle or a product of that small community, where much like the famous theme sang, "everybody knows your name." For those of the former area, while the concept may be firmly recognized, truly visualizing what it's like could be impossibility. Enter Gideon Koppel's ode to the small town, the nearly silent documentary "Sleep Furiously."
"Sleep Furiously" is a film that demands the viewer lose themselves for 90-minutes in an experience that magnificently captures the relaxing (urbanite translation: slow) pace of these slow towns, in this case a few little towns quietly plopped down on the landscape of Wales. Koppel is the ultimate objective observer, fixing his camera on everyday life, both active and inactive, waiting nearly 20 minutes before any dialogue of relevance is spoken. It's just enough time for one to invest or become bored by a place that has largely refused to change with the times. Yet, progress finds a way and at a town meeting we gets snippets of unwanted change (the closure of a school) and the thought of such a peaceful and happy place marred by the hustle and bustle of generic big city life casts a melancholy tone on a beautiful landscape and people.
The only consistency in "Sleep Furiously" is a sign of progress itself, a yellow library van that Koppel stops in on a few times. Although never explicitly stated, a community otherwise content with their isolation reveres this link to the outside world. A woman carefully wipes her feet before stepping on board to peruse the shelves for this month's reading material. As we glow closer to the end, that creeping sense of progress takes hold with a woman asking for "The Dummies Guide to the Internet." However, as carefully crafted as Koppel's film is in this regard and if his intent is truly to document a nearly forgotten way of life, asking viewers to invest 90-minutes eventually unravels the initial feeling of peace as the shots become monotonous and repetitive at times; there are only so many times you can watch a tractor pull hay bales around a field before you long to know what the other people in town are up to.
"Sleep Furiously" is a moving experience, but one that has questionable replay, which in a way provides a moment to ponder whether we truly long for a way to return to the simple things in life or we are only headed for more mechanization and connectivity. Curiously the film is scored by Aphex Twin, but the result is restrained and serene like the film's subject, a striking contrast from the artist's normally electronic and/or harsh sounds. In the end, "Sleep Furiously" answers some questions about small town life, but like any good documentary does leave you with new questions to consider as you return to a reality that is likely nothing close to what you spent 90-minutes soaking in.
As Microcinema provided a DVD+R copy with no indication on their site this wasn't a standard pressed disc, I am unable to give a proper analysis and critique of the DVD's visual quality. Should this matter be clarified, this section will be updated to reflect such matters.
As Microcinema provided a DVD+R copy with no indication on their site this wasn't a standard pressed disc, I am unable to give a proper analysis and critique of the DVD's audio quality. Should this matter be clarified, this section will be updated to reflect such matters.
The lone extra is the film's 50-minute black-and-white origins as "The Library Van," that is actually a lot more "vocal" than the main feature.
While I can't say most people will want to spend multiple sessions with "Sleep Furiously" even if the thought of small town life repels you, the beauty that Koppel captures on film should be required viewing. It is the perfect visual and tonal encapsulation of a way of life that is on the verge of going extinct. Rent It.