The Sleeping Beauty figure, as featured in the most popular versions of the classic fairy tale, is the archetypal passive heroine. Falling into the death-like state of a long, deep sleep, she lacks all agency and simple lies still waiting until she wakes. Julia Leigh’s début film Sleeping Beauty can be regarded to some extent as being a subversion of the way popular culture frequently views women as passive or helpless. However, to simply regard it as a revisionist modern fairy tale is far too narrow and doesn’t take into the account the multiple layers of meaning that the film operates on. Within the film is an examination of objectification, what constitutes as a sexualised image and the nature of sexual aggression. Notions about sex and death are turned on their heads and the audiences are routinely confronted with ideas and images that are both ambiguous and unsettling.
The Sleeping Beauty of the film is Lucy (Emily Browning), a university student who works several jobs to pay the rent. Lucy is a complete enigma and apart from basic financial needs, what motivates her is a mystery. Her attitude towards sex appears to be one of complete indifference and casualness; she decides whom to have sex with by flipping a coin and tells one character, with almost fully disguised contempt, ‘My vagina is not a temple’. She’s not submissive; she just seemingly goes with the flow without any hang-ups. This attitude leads her to first accepting a job wearing lingerie while serving wealthy elderly dinner guests, and later taking a job where she is consensually drugged to sleep and left alone with various older men.
Lucy’s ambivalence towards sex is also expressed in the film’s refusal to sexualise any of what is on screen. No actual acts of sex are shown and the extensive shots of naked or half naked characters are cold and detached, sometimes bordering on the absurd in the case of the dinner parties with the lingerie-wearing waiting staff. A common critique of pornography, and the appropriation of the pornographic aesthetic in mainstream culture, is that images that have adopted such endlessly replicated and industrialised representations of sexuality are in fact drained of any actual eroticism or sensuality. By visually and narratively presenting various situations where the expression of sexuality is artificial, Sleeping Beauty appropriates this idea and prevents the viewer from engaging with the sexual content in any emotional way. The dominant gaze of heterosexual men is thus exposed and therefore denied, allowing the film to delve deeper into ideas of intimacy and violation.
The men who pay to be in the room with Lucy while she is drugged asleep are repeatedly told that no penetration is allowed, further fitting in with the film’s absence of what is typically regarded as sex. In fact, the only time we actually see Lucy penetrated is in the opening, and then one subsequent scene later, when she swallows a balloon attached to a long tube for a medical experiment she’s being paid to take part in. Using the sterile environment of a laboratory for this visceral and unconventionally invasive, yet consensual, violation of her body sets up the film perfectly. The oral penetration symbolism also mirrors the fact that she must drink the deep-sleep drug plus there is the scene where she is instructed to colour her lips the same colour as her labia.
The men are repeatedly told that they are safe and free from judgement while in the room with sleeping Lucy, perhaps to parody the often defensive claim that men are the most vulnerable in a sexualised environment because their urges supposedly render them so helpless. Once in the room, one man displays a sort of perverse tenderness, another lets out a stream of spoken misogynist rage while another carries and throws her around like a rag doll. The acts are non-sexual but each in their own way are expressions of something dark within some men that make them want to dominate women. With Lucy drugged asleep, to awaken with no memory of what had happened, they are able to yield power over her. In this way Sleeping Beauty expressed the nature of sexual violence as being something that comes from a cruel desire to wield power and degrade, with sexuality having nothing to do with it.
Part of Lucy’s detachment from sex is the notion that she instead finds intimacy in death, symbolically through the deep sleeps or otherwise. One of the few moments where she displays true emotion is associated with a moment of death, making any non-consensual encounters with death the greatest violation she can experience. Like Sleeping Beauty and many other fairy tale female protagonists, Lucy is also ‘punished’ for her curiosity – a curiosity that involves looking at something she is not supposed to see, in other words, trying to take the power of the gaze away from men.
While psychoanalysis and feminist film theory facilitate so many entry points into understanding what is at play within Sleeping Beauty, it mustn’t be overlooked that it is essentially a sensory film that defies simple explanation or categorisation. Leigh has an extremely well tuned sense of visual storytelling and has clearly worked very closely with cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson and production designer Annie Beauchamp in the construction of each scene. Soft light and bold primary colours give many of the scenes the almost stylised appearance of a moving painting, at times evoking the films of Stanely Kubrick, David Lynch and Peter Greenaway. The immersive experience of watching this film is further aided by the meticulous and minimalist sound design by Sam Petty. Finally, Browning has been perfectly cast as Lucy. Not only do her young girl looks confront the way we perceive her onscreen in such a role (rather than titillate), but she delivers a highly measured and controlled performance that matches the dreamlike tone of the film.
On face value Sleeping Beauty may appear to be simply an arty exercise in film style and as a result will no doubt perplex and frustrate some audiences, particular those expecting something more erotic or blatantly emotionally charged. However, like Lucy it contains something dark, complex, mysterious and, indeed, beautiful deep down below the surface.
4 stars? Are you kidding? No proper narrative development; a sub-plot character who dies half way through the film having not influenced things one iota; strange clumsy wooden dialogue that confuses; scenes going nowhere; a risible premise about an attractive student engaging in ‘high class’ prostitution where the rich old guys accept a “no penetration” rule while she sleeps.
Some good visual style ruined by sloooow script and – frankly – a boring go-nowhere narrative. A comment on sexual politics? Dated and non-engaging construction.
Don’t pay too much attention to the number of stars Paul; it’s a pretty arbitrary rating. Hopefully what I actually say in my review carries more weight and possibly even responds to some of your complaints. No worries if after reading my review you still disagree, but I do think I’ve addressed your criticisms. It’s certainly a film that is going to divide opinion dramatically and I very much respect that.
Well – you’ve written a thoughtful review that strives to mobilise some themes and useful questions – cheers – but I guess, like quite a few other ‘hungry’ Aus film-viewers, I had hoped for a stronger contemporary offering. The film’s careful visual style and poised construction was not matched by decent narrative: for me, if you want to do slow intensity (which I can applaud) you still need to define the audience’s ‘stake’ – even if it is something really abstract like estrangement or nihilism in Antonioni. In this film – why should I care about the pretty uni student paying her bills with unlikely semi-sex? She’s ambivalent about a lot – why?
Go see it if you like to think about how ‘thinking films’ succeed or fail. It fails for me.
Kudos to you for trying to write something thoughtful and so on.
There’s a time, though, to call ’emperor’s new clothes’. When you realise you’re overthinking something and the truth is, this one’s a turkey.
Stars may be arbitrary, but to give it 4 is as perverse as Lucy/Sara’s clients.
Clem Bastow did pretty well in The Vine:
moderator edit: instead of quoting giant chunks from it verbatim, here’s the link to Clem’s review.
I’ve got to say Anderson, one of my pet peeves is being told that I’m over-thinking a film. This is a film criticism blog so being analytical and reading into films is what I do. I know you mean well, but all that is happening here is a difference of opinion regarding what this film has or hasn’t got to offer. I know not many people will feel the same way about Sleeping Beauty as I do, and Clem is one of many who have expressed the problems they have with it extremely well. My co-hosts on the latest episode of Plato’s Cave and one of the hosts on the Breakfasters certainly took me to task on my views, but they all respected my perspective.
I saw this film with a friend of mine, last night. We both agreed we needed to go to the pub to discuss this film. Your review could have been taken from our discussion verbatim. I couldn’t believe how close our observations were to yours. I doesn’t mean we are right, as there are no rights and wrongs as such, but we are in furious agreement
That’s really interesting Leon and it is that kind of film. I don’t think there are any right or wrong ways to interpret it either. I got to meet Julia Leigh and she was adamant about not explaining the film or revealing what any of it meant to her since she wants audiences to take away their own thoughts and ideas.
Thanks for confirming that I’m not the only one who found plenty of things in this film to think about.
I found this to be a wonderful film in disassociation and sadness amongst many other, more complex themes.
I felt it didn’t need to further expand on the “sub-plot” of The Birdman – for me that was an essential and pivotal part of the film and played a deep part in my understanding of Lucy and some of her motivation.
This is a wonderful review and the first time I’ve come across this blog. Thankyou Thomas.
I enjoyed this review, specifically about you picking up the sensory deprivation theme and that penetration was solely perpetrated in the science experiment, presumably for money.
I have some general ideas and comments about the movie and would welcome any discussion from you and/or your readers. I posted it at imdb.
What a terrible, terrible film! Left me feeling violated and unfulfilled. Once more, very unoriginally, relying on soft porn and themes of female degradation, passivity, exploitation and nudity to sell…and then call it art. So what is new?? Lucy is utterly without soul and the audience does not see any growth in any of the characters.
I think that was part of the point.
Anyway, I saw a lot of artistry in it and I think I’ve explained at length why. However, I know it’s not for everybody.
Great review. I liked this film a lot more when thinking back to it, or describing it to friends. It’s such an achievement that this film exists, that an artful, elegant, austere creation like this was made in Australia. Naturally, it’s going to leave most viewers cold, annoyed and unmoved, but I thought it achieved what it set out to do so well that I ultimately regarded the film as a success. The simple act of being able to unclothe a woman as beautiful as Emily Browning and make it an utterly un-erotic and sexless act alone speaks to the power of the filmmaking. Could have used more of Ben Frost’s score though.
I did like the movie, even I believe 4 starts is too much and it can create confusion even reading the whole review, my husband said after seen it that it was cold, annoying and unmoving and did tell him anything.
@Andy: I’m clearly with you on this as I think it is a wonderfully artful film, which does some extraordinary things in the way it undermines expectations about eroticism.
@Yoli: I’m not sure how a very positive critique followed by a 4 star rating is confusing, but I apologise all the same.
After seeing this film last night, I’ve had a hard time not thinking about it. This is a great review – you’ve brought up a lot of good points regarding the cold and distant sexualization and generally uncomfortable tone of the whole film. I can see why it may frustrate some people, but I thought that Lucy’s emotionless passivity was so well executed and poignant. She performed every one of her jobs with the same methodical, indifferent machination, like any student that finds him/herself switching their brain off while partaking in endless, numbing occupations. She allows herself to be literally put to sleep in order to mentally skip the lengthy hours of her degrading job, only to wake up with a full purse and no memory of the events. It’s dramatic and extreme, but it hits the nail on the head. What’s interesting is that the entire premise of the Sleeping Beauty story rests on a girl that falls into a deep sleep by pricking her finger on a poisoned spinning wheel – an occupation delegated to women of that time. I don’t think I’m reading too much into this, as the film poses these questions and though it seems unmoving and distant, it echoes the position of its main character beautifully.
Thanks JM and thanks for adding your thoughtful comments about this intriguing film. I especially like the connection you’ve made between the numbing and later degrading jobs that Lucy performs, and the female-only activity that the original Sleeping Beauty character was doing when she fell into her fateful deep sleep.
this movie was a complete waste of film and 90 odd minutes of my life, poor acting, poor script and plot, nothing new here
The Story of O was more intriguing and captivating if you want to go down the road of “female degradation” 4/10
Sorry to hear that Phil. I guess this film would be frustrating if you were expecting something along the lines of The Story of O, but as has been said a few times in the comments here and in my original review, I think that’s part of the point. Also, I don’t think Sleeping Beauty is about female degradation.
HAHAHAHA @Thomas C, leaving an audience unfulfilled is part of the plan?, so not being able to convey a complete scene and worse not be able to make the audience feel an emotion fully is part of the plan? when did they start praising movies because of how unfulfilling they were, if if you consider non achieving as successful it’s worrisome.
this film doesn’t even lend itself for discussion because they don’t give you a story, so in order to discuss it, you’d have to make the whole thing up, for example the camera she bought?.. which she could have turned on on her last encounter …and then maybe someone saw it, but they don’t convey what happened. So..Great the characters in the film are aware of the story but the audience is NOT, to me that is a failure, since it is a fictional film and what the characters may know is irrelevant.
I’m glad you are so amused REDDJOAN.
The comment I made about audiences being left unfulfilled should be read in the context of my review and the other comments. The point that I and others here have repeatedly tried to make is that if you bring certain expectations to this film then you will be unfulfilled. I think that’s a reasonable point and you’ve proven it with your response. Personally, I found the film to be extremely fulfilling and I’ve explained why at length in my review. Naturally, I’ll have to disagree with you on your remark about the film not lending itself to discussion as I’ve found heaps to say about it as have many other people, including yourself.
What a weird thing to think about. Male dominance over an oblivious, morally bereft and consequently damned female as the ultimate form of impotence. It’s a lot like watching a child trying to wake up their dead puppy, isn’t it? Subversive, dark and edgy to the Nth degree. Though, I’m pretty sure it’s completely perverse. I mean, isn’t this the very definition of Schadenfreude? An intriguing glimpse into some forgotten ring of hell, for your viewing pleasure.
This film as artistic and at times meaningful-depending-on-interpretation as it is, i feel, needed more of a conclusion.
As open minded as people are about these things, i feel it didn’t really end…. unless you call a middle an end. I personally did not learn any more about her at the end than i already had. She only shows emotion when the subject is death, and had already shown this with a birdman scene earlier.
But i think the meaning of the whole film is not dependent on the fact she is asleep and has been paid for the job she partakes but that in fact she is already asleep as a person.
She was already switched off. In her mind and in her soul. And the adding in of the story by the elderly gent prior to his fate in the end, was interesting as it explained a lot about the film itself.
What i picked up as a moral of the story was that people need to endure something like death or be close to death, before they appreciate or ‘wake up’ to the life around them and its possibilities.
As interesting and as spectacularly identified as this, i still feel there should have been a little more to the story that this.
For example, we already knew that she is responsive to death emotionally as opposed to anything else, but for all we know as an audience, unlike the story the gent told, she could have gone back to Zombie girl, like she was previously.
It would have been a little better to have seen a positive ending, and maybe an awakening in concrete, should have been on the cards.
I guess i feel it would have been more inspirational if we knew for certain, as all film directors can use cliffhangers and questions floating in the air, but i prefer to watch something that inspires. I know that was this films intention, but i was feeling depressed a lot more than inspired at the end.
(just an opinion, and there will be many who judge me, and many who disagree, but i will not be back to debate, i have said my piece and this is truly how i feel, continue to debate if you feel the need but i ask in advance to not post anything offensive or judgemental about be as a person over this one post. Thanks.)
I guess perfect performance…it’s hard to play such scenes with such an unemotional face, perfect colours and clothing I think costumer and cameraman must be honoured for such a work. I didn’t catch a plot fully and some moments are still out of my understanding…But I liked it=)
I found the atmosphere of the film compelling… just that.
T’was a roller-coaster of emotions, and if the film was artistic representation of “repulsive”, then it’d be 5/5. On standards though, it remains ‘not to be rated’. :)
This film is pretentious dribble! Now I like films which make you think and I certainly don’t like to be slapped in the face by the plot and what it means on a day-to-day real life basis. But this film is so vague a open to interpretation(i.e lacks true content) that there is no point, no meaning and no relevance to it.
First of all the acting is really, really bad. There is a very GCSE drama class feel to the acting. The lead, Lucy, is standard at best. Clara, the woman who owns that restaurant/rent a sleeping girl place, was abysmal. The acting in general was just so dry and sterile, maybe it was meant to be, but bad acting really does ruin a film.
Another big problem was dialogue and content. Kind of goes hand in hand with the acting a bit. The dialogue was repetitive, bland, slow and basic. It again had that young drama student feel to it. Its like the bad acting and bad dialogue go hand in hand, so what you have are these really plain, uninteresting characters. The lead is obviously troubled; alcoholic mother, no mention of her father, enjoys lots of drugs and sex (massive cliché, yawn). Despite having lots of sex with rich middle-aged unknowns there is meant to be something ironic about the fact that there is to be no penetration when she is put to sleep, during which nothing particularly exciting happens and could have been made a lot darker. There is also some apparent symbolism about the fact that she is penetrated at the beginning and half way through by some scientist shoving a balloon down her throat. I’m not sure what this is meant to symbolise but knowing directors and writers of these sort of films I’m sure they will just make up some gobble-de-gook.
I could go on for a long time, but the last point I’ll make out is that this tries very, very hard, to be Kubrick like. A lot of the still shots, surrealness, facial closeups etc. However, lacking in any real tension all these techniques go to waste and they may of got someone drunk to film it all on their mobile phone. I like inconclusive endings, but that was just poor and meaningless. This film is not dark, edgy or gripping. Its a waste of time and the only people I can imagine would like it are people so determined not to look mainstream that they will enjoy any art film thrown at them to make that point.
I quite liked the film. I mean, as with all movies, I’d love for various things to have been done differently etc etc. However I’m mostly just confused about the ending. Why all the screaming? She seemed so emotionless until then. And really, was waking up next to a dead man so much more horrifying than letting complete strangers do whatever they want to whilst she’s out to it?
I also thought it was a bit of a shame not to touch more on Birdman. They seemed to have quite a fond relationship. I found myself hoping that Lucy would ditch the prostitution and marry Birdman. That said, I’m a bit used to the ever-predictable plots of the typical romance.
I loved your note on the “almost stylised appearance of a moving painting” -that summed up exactly what I was thinking when I was watching her sleeping in the bedroom. It reminded me of such baroque artists as Johannes Vermeer at times.
All in all, a very interesting, captivating movie. Definately not the type of thing I would normally watch, but I couldn’t seem to tear myself away after having started it.
Can anybody tell me exactly what happened at the end? I saw it but I still don’t understand it. She turned on her camera, and in the morning, the old man was dead and Lucy was upset over it. BUT WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED? I’m so CONFUSED! And how was Birdman related to her? Please someone explain this to me.
The old man committed suicide. My reading of the end is that his suicide is hugely traumatic for Lucy since she never consented to having somebody die next to her. As I say in my review:
Lucy consented to Birdman dying next to her, unlike the old man. There is deliberate ambiguity about Lucy and Birdman’s relationship, but it is implied they are intimate companions of some sort.
This is not a film that can be fully appreciated or understood literally, unlike most films that these days are marketed as art-house. I suppose that’s why it has enraged so many viewers and been embraced by so many others.
Your review has put words to my thoughts. Thank you! After watching the film, I was very disturbed and haunted. I literally struggled to sleep; paranoid of being watched xD However, your review has helped me appreciate the film a ton more. While many of my remaining questions have been answered; I still wanted to know the meaning behind the scene when Lucy subtlely releases the berries on the car floor. I don’t know if I’m now over-analyzing the film but now I see each scene as a puzzle to be solved =) Also why did Clara have to give Lucy CPR?? Why did feeling Lucy’s toes, freak her out? And just my silly view but the final seconds of the film freaked me out because I was expecting some ghost to pop out. (I blame Paranormal Activity) xD…Thanks in advance!
So the only expectation you should bring to this movie in order to be fulfilled is this: To expect to see naked young girls turn into prostitutes who like to allow old men to take advantage of them for money while the girl is sleeping… Great movie if you’re an old perv and can’t get any, hell I bet most of you that commented saying how great it is are all over 50 and have something wrong with you in the head. Also this would be a great movie if you don’t care about the plot of the movie or even really care about what’s going on besides the fact they get to watch a young girl let men just like themselves . All though I didn’t watch the full movie, I watched most of it until I couldn’t take the poor quality and poor acting a moment longer. The movie is so bland and emotionless. There’s no excitement or thrill of any kind. I could go on and on about it, but it doesn’t really matter what I think. If some of you people enjoyed this film, I’m happy for you! Congratulations on a greater perception of low budget non-sense films. For those of you who are on my side, I’m glad you’re not some sick twisted old creeper. I’ve never written a blog or criticized a movie before, but for this one I had to see what others thought about it…. I would like to know others opinions of my opinion as well, so comment away.
One more thing… Maybe I’ll try to watch the movie again when I can pay more attention to the “mysteries” in every scene instead of assuming it’s dumb.
David, if you’ve read my review and some of the discussion that has taken place here, you’ll see that this film does the opposite of offering images for people to perv on. Your generalisations about the kind of people who like Sleeping Beauty are completely ill-founded and inaccurate. Also, plenty of people have reacted against this film in a similar way to you so I’m not sure what you’re so worried about. In fact, I’ve been fascinated by how much this film has outraged people. They are not just upset by the film itself, but by the fact that other people have been able to appreciate it. I know your last sentence was meant to be sarcastic, but it’s the part of your comment that is the most reasonable.
It’s a BDSM fairy tale. Simple as that. Exploring fetishes: protocol dinners, medical fetishism, sleep-sex, submission, power and control. If you get that, you’ll get it.
I appreciate this review very much. I was drawn to the movie simply because of its beauty. the cinematography is stunning. when I first saw the movie I was very disappointed because I didn’t really understand things. I still don’t understand the death of that one character. however, I appreciated it for a reason I couldn’t put into words, and I think you’ve covered it in this review. the lips and mouth symbolism is especially strong.
Reading this really helped to answer questions I had on the film. I appreciate many aspects of the film: acting, cinematography, production design. But, like most people I pay to have a film take my emotions “on a ride” so to speak, although this is not a very exciting ride, it will hook you into watching the entirety and leave you wanting more.
Thanks for the article, offers great insight and obviously a different perspective than a lot of people have! Appreciate it for what it is people.
Well….where do I begin?!! Characteristic of ALL indies, this one is nonsensical, perverted, filled with existential angst and just plain stupid – what was I thinking when I decided to watch it?! Trying to interpret it from an intellectual perspective is a waste of time. Indies have become cliche – they try to propogate either a political or philosophical agenda that just doesn’t correspond with reality – utter crap
Good Movie. Extremely Confused with Climax. Please some one explain.
Other than that, the things to appreciate is,
* Characterization of Lucy is different, Who dare and fear.
* Lucy is sexy n cute. But hardly any audience can see her in that attitude. Such kind of creation is really tough. (Example: The Reader)
* Expressions shown by decent Man to the defenseless Sleeping beauty is 100% true.
* All decent man watched movie can able to feel the intensity of guiltiness, When Lucy knows whats going on around while she sleep in climax.
I too would like to understand the significance of the berries and why did she burn the $ 100 note? Surely she could afford the rent $ with 4 paid jobs; maybe burning her money is a way of dealing with the shame.
To the person asking about why she freaked out @ the end and had cpr, my interpretation was she almost ODd from having drugs the night before which is why “Sara” is always asked about her health before she sleeps and I guess I’d freak out waking up to a dead man! He said he may need “help” (euthanasia) some time as all his “bones were broken”. Correct me if I’m wrong!
A thought provoking film worth watching and not just for “creeps”.
Thanks for posting your review and sparking such a lively discussion. I googled reviews of this film after I missed bits of it (my upstairs neighbors started band practice halfway through) and the ending piqued my interest as well. I wanted to know more…I know that can be frustrating for some people, but I like open-ended stories when it doesn’t feel arbitrary or lazy, and this one didn’t.
I actually, surprisingly, loved the film. Surprising because I had seen previews On Demand and felt turned off. It struck me as cheesy erotica, but then I read something about it and decided to give the film a go. You’re so right…the images were NOT erotic at all, which, given the beauty of the protagonist, must have been a deliberate and difficult challenge. I found myself empathizing with and deeply worrying over the heroine, longing in fact to shake Sleeping Beauty awake– awake to her own beauty inner as well as outer, to the beauty of life and possibility. She seemed frequently so angry and contemptuous, just there underneath the surface, sometimes bubbling up in little short, staccato statements– chinga tu madre, my vagina is not a temple, etc.
Someone above commented that perhaps SB grew so upset at the end, because she consented to Birdman dying beside her but didn’t consent to the old man doing that. It’s almost as if the old man violated her intimacy. Sex wasn’t an act of intimacy (the film was excellent at demonstrating how she felt about that). She was just dripping with self-loathing and somehow seemed so cut off from everyone around her, disconnected and lonely; she was an incredible actress.
I also think it’s interesting the same old man who told the story whose moral was “you have no broken bones, stand up and walk” at the end of the film lay beside her with bones broken or looking like a broken boneless body anyway just as Sleeping Beauty was shaken awake, showing the strongest emotion of the film…
Well, I think your analysis was a million times more elegantly written so I’ll stop attempting one, and I’m so glad I came across a discussion about the film since I watched it all on my own. It IS a divisive film. I can’t imagine a single one of my (mostly American) friends being able to enjoy the slower rhythms and symbolic language of this film. I don’t mean that in a snotty-snobby way (since I love my friends and respect differences in taste). I think films like this take the practice of patience and a great love of unique and stirring imagery– you have to let yourself get into them and in fact appreciate them for being able to upset you, when so many films leave you unsurprised and vaguely feeling numbed. Which I find more upsetting…I feel as if I’ll think about this film all day tomorrow. And maybe even the next. Flawed as it undoubtedly was, I think that’s what makes a film or book great. Perfection is boring, and what does that really mean except usually there was nothing hugely wrong with it.
All the best,
Unlike many reviewers, I loved every minute of this film. I’m not normally a fan of indie movies, and especially hate pretentious artsiness–but I don’t think that’s what this is. You do need some sort of interest in feminist film theory to get it. I think you are right that Lucy as a character is not really the point–the male gaze is. Visually, I found myself comparing Browning to Botticelli’s Venus. I think the director invoked this “moving portrait” style to show how images of female beauty (incl. pornography) must be static; if the female body doesn’t uphold the act, the illusion is lost. Patriarchy and its constructions of masculinity have long been dependent on images of female passivity (as you said, not submission, which implies the submissive has agency through choice.) The camera turns Lucy into the ultimate sleeping beauty because it objectifies her while denying any characterization–even the trope of the sympathetic prostitute in financial distress is denied. Film itself is acknowledged as a tool and product of power.
Negative reviewers seem to have sought provocation through the gritty side of the sex industry, or spoon fed themes in explicit images or dialogue. I think they were seeking the very thing they accuse the movie of having, perversity for the sake of shock value alone, masquerading as art. I believe they misunderstand the portrayal of female passivity– seeing that it is unchallenged in the film, they perceive it to be the ultimate message. Yet it is the outside context of filmmaking/storytelling/image-making itself that gives Sleeping Beauty its meaning.
Yeah, reading this review allows me to appreciate this movie so much more. There are many nuances to miss, and things that may not mean anything except in hindsight. The whole violation by death, ironic placement of emotions, and sexual non-happenings was very well-placed, and something to think about.
Honestly, I was hoping for cliché-type sleep erotica involving a “Sleeping Beauty”, but what I found was that I wasn’t turned on the whole movie, and I was completely okay with it. The sterility ensures that you will be paying more attention to what the message is (or, what it could be, depending on your point of view), and less to the various amounts of naked bodies (Some more pleasant, some less pleasant… mostly less pleasant) you’ll see in the movie.
I can definitely see more of what the movie was about, and I’m glad I watched it with a completely misguided idea of what I was about to get into.
All this said, I was still hoping to see Lucy get (moderator edit: you’ve made some great points so let’s leave it there!)
i thought the movie was beautiful. I feel like some the negative reviews are stemmed from the fact that it is almost impossible to relate to Lucy, as most people find sex and physical contact a very intimate thing. i didnt get anything emotional out of it, but the movie made me think. it did what it set out to do, not every movie has to make you emotionally invested people!
Hello, I really like your article. Having watched the film i had to go back and watch it again to develop my ideas. I find myself disagreeing with you though on the point of man number three:
(apologies to quote your own review).
I found that this film was celebrating sexuality in older men. Man one for example wanted to be with a woman he desired, after admitting he never cherished his wife he wants to cherish Sara. He wants to cherish this beautiful woman. I agree with your reading of man two. However, man three is where my opinion differs the most. I feel that he wanted to feel manly and although it was about power: he carries her. It was about reinforcing his masculinity and making him feel like a man but with a softness. He cried when he could not get her back on to the bed. he breaks down and this touched me. I felt as if he was living in a memory, his wife, a lover, a girlfriend – they symbolism of the way he carried her; as if carrying his new bride across the threshold of the house.
The death at the end, do you think she did not wake due to her being hungover, or on a comedown from the drug the night before? I read the same as you on the death that her and birdmann had an intimacy and by the man dying next to her they were taking away or desecrating the intimacy she choose to share with birdmann: a violation they had no right to cross. It is seen as being worse than if she had been penetrated. This in my viewing was her punishment for her lack of discretion, which she is warned will have severe consequences. Ironically she films the innocent night; the night in which nothing occurs, although, this can be seen as being the worse as the same reason mentioned above. Arguably though Sara is penetrated by man 2 when he orally penetrates her with his fingers. It made me question the lines in which they considered what was and what was not classified as penetration.
I think another interesting point to mention is the name change, I have referred to Lucy as Sara as it is Sara that is the sleeping beauty it forms as a detachment device allowing Lucy to separate herself from her work, or role as sleeping beauty. It also highlights that Sara is a construct, she is not real: like the fairytale character sleeping beauty. Sara is created by the company, and by the men. Each man takes something different from her, constructs her in a different way. She is never the same women. Sex and sexuality therefore is a construct. I liked how the gaze of the camera really focused upon the best points of the men – they all have good, strong legs, Man one has a young looking front body, man two it is his back you focus upon and Man three it is the arms. Each nameless Man is portrayed differently, individually, and it is this that makes me think that the film is really celebrating and highlighting that older people are still sexual and that sex is different to everyone. It really makes the viewer interact and question what they consider sex to be.
Let me know you ideas on these.
And a wonderful review on a wonderful film.
I understand the themes. I wish I understood the plot. :( The film left me cold and unfulfilled, but instead of feeling outraged, I feel mystified and intrigued at the same time. That led me to google more about this film, and I think I have a better understanding of the plot and themes as a whole.
Good lord what an atrocious mess of a film! As others have noted above, I never felt able to engage with Lucy, not one iota, so consequently had no real investment in what happened to her, but that is by no means the only flaw here. This film is replete with wtf. She has a total of four jobs and can’t pay her rent? Really? Yet she sets fire to a $100 bill? Srsly?
Her relationship with the Birdman is never explained, as is her hobby of picking up men in bars, and — these two factors notwithstanding — for a uni student she seems to have little in the way of either friends or fun. What a grim world.
And just how far are we supposed to entertain this foolish fantasy of sex work that takes place in the finest surroundings, involves no penetration and involves the girl being unconscious throughout?
Pretentious and boring.
The ending was the climax of pure bliss, she was always happy while sleeping, unconscious of the real-life, pain and suffering.
Man 2 was already dead, he just was a shell of his former-self, selfish and a betrayer. He did not deserve to have a name. The endangered nocturnal mouse only enemies was the owl and the bat, such an analogy by Leigh was just superb. She only screams when she is on the offensive.
The screenplay will have so many interpretations, which will make it a classic.
The under lying story is that even mice can have all the power, women are the decision-makers and the men with money use their money, while she can burn hers.
The act of penetration was incorporated into the act of violence, which was over-looked by the smoke. The acting was just sub-lime.
Well done Julia Leigh and Emily Browning, a team well forged.
Lucy was easy to relate to. She is someone who is numb to most experiences and when she is woken up from a death-like slumber she sees why she’s been numb. It was beautiful. I’ve been going through life similar to her and I know that I don’t want to wake up; I know I won’t.
Well, if the ending is just what was discussed here, then I find it lacking, What was the meaning and purpose of inserting at the end that last footage –from Lucy’s hidden camera– of her sleeping peacefully next to the dead man as the film credits roll?
The way I see it, the previous scene when Lucy was revived was a just-before-death dream sequence, Lucy wishing for a rescue, But Lucy/Sarah was never revived.
Thanks for your review Tom – thoughtful and well constructed as ever. Respect.
I was disappointed in the movie, mainly because it was lauded so much. The director’s got talent AS A DIRECTOR but not enough to overcome her writing issues (I think this is why people feel compelled to vent). I don’t feel hateful towards the movie, just kind of blah. But I wanted to play with some of the ideas expressed in this intriguing thread.
I’ve read dozens of scripts that felt like this movie, all of them unfinished works by talented folks that needed more revision. This script doesn’t feel finished and Leigh (who has an eye, and a good sense of atmosphere) masks that with stylized performance (hiding faulty character work) and minimalist camera (which makes the movie feel like an art movie without delivering any philosophical or existential depth (for many viewers)).
Telltale signs of thin script:
1) undeveloped characters: she’s not mysterious, it’s just that the writer hasn’t considered her inner/human/emotional life and done the very, very, very difficult work of expressing that as a character want (am I wrong that her only goal is to pay the rent? This set up really doesn’t say much to me about the world); making a character ‘dead inside’ or ‘numb’ doesn’t permit you to make them robotic; and atmosphere alone will not carry archetypal secondary characters who never truly interact with the protagonist (“intentionally cliched” is still cliche, and characters who represent aspects of the psyche need to express themselves in a dramatic or entertaining fashion (viva Frank Booth! viva Charlie Meadows!)).
2) clunky transitions: fade in/fade out because the shots don’t cut together and there’s no continuous drama – just scenes;
3) lack of ending or character suffering a mental break that is uncharacteristic/not set up: this movie does both – because there’s no inner life to the character therefore no journey, yet the author knows instinctively that there should be a big dynamic ‘bang’ at the end;
4) over-reliance on critical theory: because there’s no story and the author doesn’t grasp drama – if you’re going to do this sort of film, for the love of God don’t make me sit through more than 30 minutes of it (3-10 minutes would be more appropriate, and I’ll be more forgiving if you do it while you’re in film school).
5) over-reliance on style; cinematography and production design are great, no contest – but still no point;
6) loose ends: Why even bother with the spy camera? Why is she so upset that her only friend is on deaths door, but his funeral is then dealt with in a perfunctory scene that loosely alludes to the characters ‘troubled history with drinking’ whilst bringing up a bit of backstory that immediately evaporates, leaving the character as unaffected as before? I don’t see a statement about the nature of humanity or lust or passivity, just sloppiness.
7) premise unfulfilled: the exciting part of the idea was that a woman would willingly allow men to do things to her while she’s asleep (surely a psychologically challenging position to put oneself in) – except that the men aren’t allowed to do things to her so ultimately she’s suffering nothing, barely curious about it.
I don’t buy the intentionally unfulfilled expectations idea. If you’re going to do a bait-and-switch on the audience, you need to perform the SWITCH (films like No Country or Bronson or Animal Kingdom or bloody Thelma & Louise do this well – you don’t want the movie to go where it goes but you’re thrilled and engaged when it does). To relieve yourself of this difficult reversal is to absolve yourself of the consequences of your choice to remove the bait. Selling it off as ‘ambiguous’ doesn’t wash for me – ambiguity is one thing or another thing, not nothing.
I don’t buy the film-theory-as-film idea. I got what joy could be offered by the meta stuff but it just doesn’t sustain. I feel like the director has done herself a disservice by only catering to very well informed theorists who will enjoy a rigorous mental exercise or people who are willing to buy into something because it seems important. I would be more willing to go with it if I felt that she had completed her thought or statement or theme – but it feels like she couldn’t, she just collected a lot of other thoughts or statements or themes and flipped bits of them around. For no good reason that I could find (and I do not begrudge nor mean insult to those viewers who were satisfied – bully for you, glad you got your twelve bucks worth).
She’s obviously got the right stuff – the images in the film are bloody magnetic and the premise had a lot of power and potential. But if the director doesn’t figure out the gray area between these two elements she’s in danger of melting away like so many other Aussie prospects.
She’s being compared to Jane Campion… Hm. Sweetie is an incredibly fun film to watch because of the character work – every single person in the film transcends the stylized stuff to become totally compelling and as human as people I meet everyday; Peel and Passionless Moments are also INTENSELY subjective works by a filmmaker who really understands the unpleasant things that make people tick, and has put in the work to render them in a work of DRAMA. This seemed to me just a collection of unpleasant things photographed compellingly in a way that renders them meaningless. Meh.
I can appreciate this film for just what it is. It is a film that has many people talking and analyzing it. As with most posters, I too wish there was some sort of moral epiphany, or some realization that had been reached. The film left me with a void.
However, overall, I enjoyed this film while some points I did understand while watching, then some others came to light after reading the previous posts above.
There are a few points of the movie that actually aggravated me afterwards.
As someone mentioned above, why did Lucy burn the $100 bill? Was it her way of diminishing the act she performed? Was it that she was rebelling in some fashion against her two roommates that she owed back rent to?
Why, during the first scene of her in her new apartment did she get out of bed only to put on a pair of panties, just to return to bed? This scene bugged me the most because there was no basis to it.
What was the symbolism of dropping the berries in the car?
Why did Lucy become so overwhelmed with the sleeping lady on the train? Was that her alcoholic mother? Did this lady remind her of her alcoholic mother? I am leaning more towards it being her mother.
What was the relationship between the man at the repass she asked to marry her and Birdman? I may be mistaking, but I took it that they were related in some way? If that is the case, why was she involved emotionally with them?
Why didn’t the movie add a scene that showed its audience her reactions or feelings of watching the video recording?
Okay, I know I named more than a few, however with these above points, I took away enough from the movie to not feel completely let down of any attachment to the film.
it all just seems like a power struggle between both sexes, and how we notice indifference as the real control. it seems that this film suggests that the first one to feel a thing for the other gender is the real losing side in the power struggle.
women´s strategy is to use their appeal to attract. by negating the thrill for the men, this film suggests that the point goes for the woman, in this case lucy. when the men ignore a woman´s emotions, the point goes to him.
we can see the exact same power struggle when there is a pretty woman walking down the street with a low cleavage, short skirt, and high heels. when the woman grabs the lewd stares of men and then reacts to nothing as if saying ¨i´m in control of my sexuality¨, she renders the men´s emotions irrelevant, hence taking power from the men. now picture the same scenario but in this case, the woman is not dressed to impress, she´s carefree, but the same men start whistling and saying sexually suggestive comments. in this case, the men may have the victory since the woman´s motive is not there. the men are proactively objectifying the woman while she´s not handing out any provocation. the indifferent attitude toward the opposite sex as the scoring point in the battle of the sexes i believe is the whole motive of this movie.
i may be ¨over-analyzing¨ the movie, as some may say, but when the thema is explicitly handed to the viewer such as in this case, NOTHING is the way to victory. i believe the death handled at the ending was the director´s way of settling the score. throughout the movie Lucy is portrayed as if saying ¨here i am, i´m in charge, i don´t feel a thing for you, you are nothing to me, YOU are the object here¨, and the men act more energetic and actively yet portrayed as if saying ¨your feelings don´t matter, i´m in charge, i don´t feel a thing, you´re merely a toy¨, and while the fight seems like a sexual version of chicken, self-destruction is the ultimate victory.
so just as any other game of chicken, who REALLY achieves victory? the loser who goes on through life feeling like they can live to fight another day, or the winner who took the extra mile to show the world his foolish prowess?
A lot of people seem perplexed about the berries in the car and burning the hundred dollar bill. To me, these two scenes were about Lucy demonstrating control. She seems to be a character that has had a lot of bad stuff happen (alcoholic mother, drugged up friend who wants to die), that she has no control over. She knew that by allowing herself to be put to sleep that she was entering into a state where she has relinquished control. The whole process of being phoned/collected/taken to the house/shower/’tea’ etc was very precise and orchestrated. Dropping the berries was Lucy’s way of rebelling. It was something small that was within her control. She was creating a mess in the car – messing up the perfect orchestrated ritual. As for the hundred dollar bill, money again represented something that controlled her. She could be fired from work, or chucked out of her flat. As for all of us, she was reliant on money and resented that control it has. Burning the note was again an act of rebellion. It belonged to her and she could choose to burn it if she wished. She was in control. Someone also asked about the woman on the bus. I think this scene shows how Lucy realised how vulnerable a person is when the are asleep. She could have taken the magasine, but chose to wipe the dribble from the woman’s lips instead. I think this scene is what made her curious about what went on while she slept, and urged her to buy the camera. Overall all the film left myself and my husband feeling flat. It was a bit depressing. Some of the characters could have been developed a lot more. And the ending definately lacked…well…an ending!
And…. (SPOILER COMING UP!)
Did anyone notice that at the very end, where we see the footage of Lucy in bed with the dying man, that the camera angle was high up, as if near the ceiling? Meaning that the footage wasn’t from the camera Lucy positioned on the vase? Perhaps suggesting that all of the meetings were being watched anyway? This would also explain a small change in detail that happened when the third man came to ‘spend time with’ Lucy. On previous occasions the lady who owned the house told the clients that they must not penetrate the girl. But on the third occasion, after Lucy had been burnt behind her ear by the second man’s cigarette, the owner instructed the third man not to penetrate OR MARK the girl, indicating that she somehow knew what had happened. Just a theory – would love to know whether anyone agrees or not!
Well, I assumed that Clara knew that ‘Sara’ had been burned because presumably they have to clear up whatever mess the men leave, so they probably go in the room after the men have left and wash/inspect the girls.. change the sheets etc.
(Because although the girls aren’t allowed to be penetrated the guys obviously probably do masturbate sometimes).
And the way Clara treats Sara is as goods, and a manager inspects the goods to make sure they’re all in order afterwards.
I thought Lucy burned the money to show us that she was acting out of self destruction rather than just simple monetary gain. But it could also be about control.
The berries, red berries, are symbolic of losing virginity. Although in this case it is a symbolic virginity.. and the next shot of her shows her looking more aware, more savvy, she knew what was going on and what to expect in the house. I also agree that they would have sullied the car and made a mess in the ritual and sterile perfect world of her controllers/employers.
I thought that she put her knickers on when she got out of bed to show that on some level, even though deeply sedated, she had been aware or affected by what had gone on. Perhaps on an energetic level, she had felt violated and in need of the symbolic or flimsy protection that pants gave her, this idea was echoed by her watching the woman on the bus sleep. This made her curious about what she was actually allowing to happen to her, and also probably why she bought the camera.
The guy at the funeral I took to clearly be her ex. Her proposal was just to shake him up a bit, she coolly observed his anger at her machinations, her discourteousness. Again- an element of self destruction and submerged anger. Her friendship with the birdman also shows her ease with depressiveness and self destruction rather than with the normal kids around her at college.
I’m glad I read this review as I hadn’t picked up on the importance to her of the intimacy of death and therefore the reason for her grave distress at the close. I also think the film is clever at expressing the sexual violation without any actual sex.
But, for all that, I still was merely left a bit depressed at the end, and not particularly overwhelmed. Interesting for an hour or two, intrigued enough to check out reviews afterwards, but not massively impressed. And I wouldn’t give this film to a couple of friends of mine because I think they’d probably get off on it for all the wrong reasons.. but it is amazing just how angry people are about this film. I’m not sure it warrants that, it wasn’t that good, or bad.
I really appreciate Ed’s comments.
Sometimes I think people are so desperate to find something meaningful and artistic, they construct something to fill a void which they don’t want to accept exists.
At the end of the day to me it felt a bit like a desperate attempt to piece together fragments which didn’t quite fit.
The storytellers knew they had something to work with. Some good ideas, some creative ways to express them, but couldn’t quite find the right vehicle that encapsulated everything in a way that had integrity from every perspective.
It was as though the story tellers refused to accept responsibility for anything other than expressing a few raw concepts shrouded in ambiguity, deliberately so because they simply lacked the skill to construct the supporting framework with attention to detail so that all the pieces fit together.
Like an unfinished painting, with the background entirely missing because the artist had not the skill to complete that many layers of complexity.
Just grasped at a few key concepts and hoped the audience would simply overlook all that was missing.
It has been very interesting to read the many interpretations expressed here.
Some I think are what the storytellers intended, while others go beyond I think what the storytellers intended, but upon reflection, wish they had.
It was not a great movie, there was definitely some very ordinary acting and the pace of the film was un-necessarily slow at times, and I don’t believe it hung together at all well with sufficient integrity to be called a good movie.
Having said that, I have to say that I am glad I watched the movie.
If nothing else, it has certainly evoked plenty of thought which is an achievement in itself.
In the end I kind of walked away thinking “I don’t get it” ….
Not because the concepts were beyond my comprehension or because I lacked the depth of perception to appreciate it.
But from this man’s point of view it was more like ….
I sort of know what you are going for ….
But you didn’t get there.
Nice try though.
Hi everyone, and thank you Thomas for this very sensible review. As some of the comments started to decrypt the meaning of the various symbols spread throughout the film, I’ve been thinking about that woman on the bus, and the one hitchhiking on the road afterwards. Is that the same woman, and why is she there, asking to be taken in the same car, on the same ride, with Lucy?
A very well thought out review, and some fascinating discussion that follows. I must admit to being somewhat stymied by the ending, but on reflection, it does make some sense.
I was left feeling sorry for Lucy/Sara at the end, because of the emotional violation she suffered. Coupled with her lack of any learning experience through the course of the film, I felt flat and unfulfilled. The old adage that ‘the only mistakes we make in life are the ones we learn nothing from’ rings very true here. Lucy appears to have not gained anything from her experiences. Certainly nothing positive, and I can’t see that she would have taken steps to improve her situation.
The film is beautifully crafted, very reminiscent of Kubrick in the static placement of camera dead centre in a room to emphasize symmetry, in a world and lifestyle that is far from perfect.
I have to disagree regarding Emily Browning’s capacity as an actress. Every film I have seen her in she has had the same emotionless, bland expression firmly fixed on her face. While I acknowledge that this would not have been an easy role to play, due to the confrontational sexual nature of the material, I saw nothing to show that she has any sort of range beyond what is shown here as well.
The only scenes in the film where I was emotionally moved at all were the two scenes with ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ (what was that all for anyway? YUCK!) and her awakening at the end to find the corpse of the man next to her. I guess if the director was looking to shock with physical, completely unsexual violation, she hit the mark with me.
Not a great film, but certainly thought provoking. Thanks again for your insightful review Thomas.
i’d just like to say how much i enjoyed this, the fact people are so annoyed by it, only makes it more enjoyable to me. its so open and detatched from the world i live in but at the same time relatable and literally dragged feelings out of me at some points. the ending did confuse me alot, only as i was expecting more, but thanks to this review my understanding of it is now increased… to say you dont see lucy develop is false. she starts off as confident, hard, you get the idea that she thinks she knows best. but as it progresses she is less and less in charge, and matures so much. she almost matures to a point of being a child again at times for me(aware this makes not alot of sense!), instead of gaining ground throughout of becoming more adult, she is unravelled and stripped of her shell, to the point where she starts to care for her own well being. really thought provoking and something i feel people will enjoy more if they are to come and read this great review to further understand it and expand the way they think themselves.
I concur – good review. At the end of the film I sighed and said ‘what a load of ****’ but then I realised I had watched right to the end and the more I thought about it the more questions I had and then decided that I want to know what happens next!
Reading all the comments here am nodding a lot – especially Zod’s comment on the ‘no marks’ rule being added when originally it was ‘we have only one rule here, no penetration’. Couldn’t imagine her complaining about the ear so how did she know?
As has been said before I am one of those people who like things tidied up and finished off – not necessarily with a pretty bow but finished just the same. So yes I would say that was the middle not an end and would be thrilled if there was a follow-up.
Thank you Thomas.
Theres just so many things i do not understand. Why was Lucy crying in the end when she saw the old man?, why did Clara wake her up? Why do Lucy cried when she’s with the guy who eat cereal with voka?
I do understand the general narrative of the film but some of Lucy’s reactions are so confusing.
I do love this film very much. Every single shot was beautifully composed and set. I am just looking for some answers i can find myself lol
Sorry for not writing formally XD
I have not seen the movie yet, however I ran across a preview of it on youtube yesterday. Now after reading your review and subsequent comments I really want to see it, now I just need to find it. Your review is much appreciated.
bad movie, but good review…
I didnt hear or read any of the reviews for this movie before watching it.
Im not an arty farty person by any means, but once I was drawn into the movie by the characters, even the ones that dont have a word to say, I was hooked. So much unsaid, yet so much told by the cameras and actors, truth be told small chapters.
Amazingly stylish, some the characters and subplots really draw you into Lucys life.
This movie, had me both feeling uncomfortable and enthralled at the same time. I agree with the main reviewer, Thomas Caldwell, even though there is a lot of bare skin, there is no sense of pornography – rather the beautiful skin of the ” sleeping beauty”.
She is a mystery in this movie as is the plot on some accounts . This movie makes your mind wonder, it kept me awake for 2 hours thinking about the end where she wakes up screaming – or was she dead??
I reckon it will go down as a classic movie – not for everyone as the main reviewer, Thomas Caldwell, says.
Just watched this movie,and as soon as I started watching it I had to google ” the real meaning behind” this film, it just seemed so much like a mind control situation. But I really enjoyed reading this review and the comments, film was good, little confusing, but watched till the end.
I imagine her sleeping with random guys for money is must worse than sleeping with a guy who wants to die next to you but not really doing anything to you, but she went crazy… I don’t quite get it and if she has that many jobs why not try not burning 100$ bills.
Spoilers below in a way….
Great discussion about the film in this thread. The ending continues to perplex me though. In the shot from hidden camera at the end does she actually move or is she too also dead next to the guy in the bed? Furthermore, when she first arrives at the country house there is another girl coming out of the back door stumbling and being guided into a car, clearly in bad shape – what was that all about? Also does the end scene fit with the “grave consequences” that are mentioned during her interviews for people who “disrespect” how the job works along the lines of she is killed because of fitting the hidden camera, which they know about because of their own camera watching the room? All depends on if she is dead or not at the end I suppose!
The ending… Lucy asked if she could watch what goes on inside the room while the girls are under. When she was told no, due to client secrecy, she instead put a video camera up to record what goes on. When she is awoken in the morning, she discovers the money spent on the camera, (instead of rent) was a waste for all it catches is the two lifeless bodies, and her questions of what happens in those rooms is still up in the air.
Hi Dave, so you think she was dead in that final shot from the hidden camera? I suppose that would suggest that the screaming scene when she was woken up was a dreamlike “pre-death” vision along the lines that someone suggested above? I must admit I did like the fact that the time she chose to capture events in the room was the time when the purpose of the visit was something different to those we had seen previously. Afterwards I did wonder though, could the coutry house and bedroom actually have been used for that purpose all along even though we didn’t see it happen up front like at the end? (big jump from the available story information I agree) – just seems odd that the final visitor was there to end his life and we see that up front – but other visits appeared to be for other purposes, of which we didn’t see everything I’m sure everyone would agree…leaving the possibility open that those men too ended their lives perhaps? Probably reading too much into it there. Then again though, all the male visitors were off a certain age and all seemed quite sad in one way or another? I would have expected variation in the age of visitors since these days age is no sign of wealth or the ability to pay for services such as those – if the purpose was simply to spend time with the young lady? Sorry for my very literal take on things, I have no background in film or cultural/feminist theories!
Who’s that woman Lucy saw on the train? The woman who was falling asleep and drooling in her seat? I’d assume that’s Lucy’s mom, but she looked like that first girl, Sophie, Lucy met at her first silver service. What was the significance of Lucy seeing that woman on the train? Or bus….?
Many thanks for one of the best reviews I’ve found of this movie. It may be the most frequently misunderstood-by-critics movie I’ve ever seen. It’s been REALLY fascinating to see the various complaints about it around the web. I think they say a lot about what we tend to expect from movies. Part of this movie’s uniqueness and beauty is in its refusal to deliver the expected.
Having just watched the film and looking for explanations to its enigmas, I found your review. Thank you for your analysis, which I found insightful and useful. I am quite surprised by the vitriol expressed by some of the commentors above and delighted that you responded to so many with a polite, respectful tone despite their rudeness. The film reminds me in many ways of Eyes Wide Shut or some of David Lynch’s films. I would like to respond to the many people complaining of the lack of a strong, clear narrative (something it does clearly lack), with a quote from William Hurt’s character, Nick, in The Big Chill. “Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.” For a reference to the quote -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwhFHzSvp8w
Here’s the thing, I understand your review and appreciate the thought put into it. I will not try to bash you and say it isn’t good because it is deeply analytical and well supported. However, one major issue I have with the film is that there is no basis for relating. I think someone had a very good point when they asked ‘why should I care about the little uni girl?’ Perhaps I simply suffer from an extreme lack of understanding regarding Lucy’s motives, but her life, her thoughts, and her world are so far away from anything I have ever dreamed of experiencing that it left me frustrated and confused. Honestly, my reaction was somewhat like: What The Heck!?! If the film had one small detail that I could grasp and say: hey that makes sense, I’ve been there, or I would do that, then perhaps I would feel differently. As is, though, Sleeping Beauty was an alien to me.
There was a lot of unanswered questions in this film. 1st, who was the bird-man & what was his relationship with Lucy? 2nd, why did Lucy burn her money when she was in desperate need of cash? 4th, what were the “extra” jobs that the other girls had to perform? 5th, did Lucy’s boss kill the old man? 6th, why did Lucy’s boss assume Lucy was dead? 7th, why didn’t we get to see what Lucy recorded? 8th, what was the point of this movie?
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