SLEEP, FURIOUSLY (Gideon Koppel; UK; 2009)
Is this superb, quiet piece of slice-of-life cinema melancholic or uplifting? A bit of both, really. There's a sense of something nostalgic and archaic in many of the scenes shown in this meditation on a small Welsh community. The slow and gentle accumulation of simple images and simple tasks builds an incremental sensation of a certain rural essence incrementally disappearing. Vocations are shown that appear to belong to a bygone time, most notably a mobile librarian, who meanders his van steadily and purposely through the Welsh hillsides. Humans are often framed in landscapes that dwarf them, consume them. For two or three minutes we watch a cake being made, but the cake is a simple jam-filled sponge-cake, something that evokes grandmotherly memories. These scenes provoke childhood memories, of pre-internet trips to the library to get my knowledge fix, of walks in the country, of eating a home-made cake that I probably haven't tasted since I was a kid.
But it's a little too easy to get caught up in a melancholic reverie of ways of life disappearing. Because this film is really an indication that these things that are easily pigeonholed as 'nostalgic' are actually intrinsic aspects of the inhabitants of this Welsh hillside community. The mobile librarian is a recurring motif that attests to this. In an age of absolute accessibility, it is defiantly wonderful to see a mobile library bopping about the countryside, providing residents with a regular fix of literature. The familiar chats that the librarian has with his regular clients allude to a kind of interlocutory warmth that is missing from most consumer/provider exchanges these days. This is perhaps a not about capturing a way of life before it disappears altogether, but about recording the determined existence of this community in an era that is predicated on speed and immediacy.