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SLEEP FURIOUSLY

Director: GIDEON KOPPEL

U.K. • 2008 • COLOUR • DIGITAL • 94 MIN


DIRECTOR GIDEON KOPPEL SHAPES THE PASSING OF TIME IN THE WELSH HILLSIDES INTO A PIECE OF PURE CINEMA IN WHAT WILL BE, FOR THE GENUINE FILM LOVER, ONE OF THE YEAR’S MOST MEMORABLE CELLULOID EXPERIENCES.

To complete this affectingly communicative first feature, he returned to the Mid-Wales community of Trefeurig where he grew up, capturing the lives of local farmers, the mobile library van and his elderly mother. There’s no commentary. Koppel just lets the camera watch people going about their business, sheep trailing across a mountainside, trees moving in the wind and the clouds rolling by — as the music of Aphex Twin provides ambient counterpoint. Slowly though, we see a pattern emerging, how the agricultural shows bring the scattered locals together now that falling numbers closed the village school, how the Welsh language still clings on amid the old folks, and the library van is a vital connection for culture and conviviality. How much of this will still be here in ten or twenty years time?

These are certainly familiar issues in the Irish landscape too, though there’s also a more personal aspect to the film, as we see when the director’s mother visits his father’s mountainside grave. Heinz Koppel was a German-Jewish artist who fled the Nazis and found a refuge in this craggy corner of Wales, and it’s possible to read the film as an evocation, through the camera’s eye, of that sense of home. The result, reminiscent of the great wartime British documentarist Humphrey Jennings’ meditations on Englishness, is heartfelt, achingly beautiful, visually striking, surprisingly funny, and utterly, utterly beguiling. — Trevor Johnston.

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