Schlaf [Sleep] (2020)

Director: Michael Venus
Writer: Thomas Friedrich, Michael Venus
Cast: Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmölzer, Marion Kracht, Agata Buzek, Max Hubacher, Martina Schöne-Radunski
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 18.9.2020

Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) lives with her mother Marlene (Sandra Hüller), a flight attendant who struggles with sleep issues – or rather, she struggles with her dreams. Marlene is convinced that her recurring dreams are pointing her towards a real place and she thinks she has found it. Unbeknownst to Mona, she makes her way to the giant hotel in the middle of nowhere that she believes is the place she is dreaming about. But it doesn’t take long and Marlene suffers a full-blown break-down. Mona comes after her and tries to figure out what is going on with Marlene and her dreams. And something is definitely going on.

Schlaf is an excellent film that moves nicely between dream/nightmare logic and political commentary. It’s a pretty wild ride that took me in completely.

The film poster showing a blond woman in a red dress with her back to the camera in a forest so dark, it's almost entirely black.

Schlaf starts with a whole lot of what the fuck, working beautiful with both the dream and reality, and especially with teh shift between the two. The dream sequences are beautifully made themselves, but I especially liked how they melt into the film’s reality. Part of why that works so well is also the location they found to shoot at – really a giant hotel complex in the middle of nowhere that just sits there, empty for at least part of the year. That building in itself, almost another protagonist of the film, feels a bit like a nightmare.

Another part are the great performances by the entire cast, wtih Kohlhof who carries most of the film a particular stand-out. Given that I found her performance in Endzeit rather uneven, it was nice to see her growth here.

Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) hugging Marlene (Sandra Hüller) from behind.

As you’re still occupied with the dream part of the film, the film starts to shift its tone and focus subtly, and so it is almost surprising when things turn overtly political – although the signs were there before. It’s a shift I appreciated a lot and that adds a lot to the film (I also liked when the director said in the talk afterwards that fascism comes easy to Germans – I know the same to be true for Austrians).

The connection Mona and Marlene have to the hotel felt a little cheesy and not quite up to the standards of the rest of the film. But I could live with that since the rest of the film is really fantastic.

Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) looking suspiciousl at something in the distance.

Summarizing: very good.

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