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===FILM ONLY REVIEW===
I came across the 2011 version of Sleeping Beauty by chance, as it was being promoted as available to stream for free as part of my lovefilm.com subscription. I decided to give it a watch after hearing it described as an erotic fairy tale, which caught my interest along with the £0.00 price tag. The film is officially released on DVD 27th February 2012 and www.amazon.co.uk are currently offering this on pre-order at the price of £7.99.
Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Directed by: Julia Leigh
Starring: Emily Browning, Michael Dorman, Mirrah Foulkes
Certificate rating: 18
===THE BACK OF THE BOX BLURB===
You will go to sleep: you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed. Quietly reckless, Lucy (Emily Browning Suckerpunch) is a young university student who takes a job as a Sleeping Beauty. In the Sleeping Beauty Chamber old men seek an erotic experience that requires a drugged, comatose Lucy's absolute submission. This unsettling task starts to bleed into Lucy's daily life as she develops an increasing need to know what happens to her when she is asleep.
Haunting and provocative, Julia Leigh's powerful vision is one of the most startling debut features of recent years.
Sleeping Beauty is a film that is in another world to the mainstream Hollywood movies that get dollars pumped into them and then churned out endlessly. Made in Australia, this is the directorial debut of Julia Leigh. It introduces us to Lucy and we begin to learn about the various areas of her life. She is obviously emotionally damaged and vulnerable, but the film gives us a deeper insight into her problems and relationships over the course of the story as different areas are explored. Lucy is young, smart and beautiful, but she is dissatisfied and unhappy. She splits her time between studying and various un-fulfilling jobs at a café, an office, and a medical lab. After seeing an ad in the student magazine she applies and becomes a silver service waitress for the mysterious Clara. Clara is responsible for running exclusive dinner parties for distinguished clients and after Lucy proves herself in these rather unconventional surroundings, she is then invited to advance her career and become a Sleeping Beauty.
I really liked that the role of Lucy as a Sleeping Beauty does not come in to place until a fair way through the film. There is a lot of build up that allows you to get a picture of Lucy as a person and what is going on in her life. As well as her studying and jobs, she has a disruptive home life, stays out all night doing drugs and sleeping with strangers, and seems to only have one true friend, the troubled "Birdman", with whom she has a bizarrely touching relationship. When she becomes a Sleeping Beauty this seems to take over the other areas of her life and during the experiences she is drugged into a dreamless sleeping state with no awareness of her surrounding or events that take place. As viewers with the privilege of acting as voyeurs, we are given knowledge that Lucy herself cannot have, and I felt varying emotions through the encounters, including sadness, disgust and anger.
The acting in this film is so utterly convincing that it scares me into thinking that this scenario could, or maybe even is, playing out in the real world somewhere. Emily Browning seemed perfect as Lucy. Her appearance was well suited to the character, as she is a gorgeous looking girl, and her body has a natural, innocent appearance which is exaggerated by the way Emily carries herself as the character of Lucy. She has an awkward, clumsy way but yet she is also graceful and elegant. The way she behaves is unexpected in some places, and it was pulled off to great effect by dry delivery of lines and subtle facial expressions. Rachel Blake was also excellent as Clara, and provided a flawless, professional exterior. The character is a confusing mix of caring and coldness, and she seems hard to read which adds to the mystery of her background and why she is involved with this business.
There are several things that I really appreciated about the production of the film. Firstly, the set locations are completely and utterly ordinary. There is little in the way of glossy appearances until we get to the Sleeping Beauty scenes, which take place in an incredibly beautiful house. In Lucy's ordinary life things look how they should do in real life, including messy un-made beds and dirty laundry in the bedroom, and stacks of books and personal items in the living room. Everything is precisely life-like and looks "lived in". Another good feature is the use of light, as this gives a lovely finish to the shots and there are different styles used for Lucy's outside life, and her Sleeping Beauty life. I also really appreciated that music was not an important factor in this film. The soundtrack was barely noticeable, and I think this was the point. There are many long sections with no background music, and when there was music playing it had an ambient quality that complemented the surroundings and situation, rather than standing out and being noticeable in its own right.
And now, here's the bit that I'm sure you've all been waiting for: did I find it erotic? In the usual meaning of the term, no I didn't. The erotic touches to the film seem decadent and indulgent, almost playful to begin with, but with a hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface. There's a brilliant little sequence where Lucy is told to apply a particular shade of lipstick, which I think perfectly showcases Lucy's quietly rebellious nature, and also highlights the strange world she is getting herself involved with. There is nudity, and this seems to me to speak more of power than it does of sexuality. The naked women are seen as subservient and submissive, yet thankfully there are no screaming moral overtones to make you feel guilty about watching it. There is a typical feminist viewpoint that seems to believe female nudity is degrading and demeaning, but the film does not judge in this way, it merely shows us what is happening and allows you to make an emotional connection. Because Lucy agrees to her treatment, how can we say that the way men use her is wrong? It makes me wonder, would I or anyone else, be able to do what Lucy does. This is never intended to be erotic in a sexy, pornographic way, and should be not be taken as such (you will be disappointed, unless voyeurism and the sad desires of lonely old men are your thing).
For anyone expecting a re-make or parody of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty made famous by Disney, you are far off the mark. This is a fairy tale in its own sort of way, presented with ethereal beauty, and the dreamlike quality of Lucy's experience translates directly to the viewer. I was sucked into this film and it took complete hold of my attention from start to finish. I was absolutely spellbound by the overall idea, the presentation, and the stunning performances. This is a quietly powerful film that left me thinking. I would strongly recommend watching it and give a well deserved 5 stars.