Sleep (2020)

From its urgent, tense opening scenes to its disturbing and vivid conclusion, Sleep is a vital slice of Lynchian dream-horror from feature debut director Michael Venus, who co-writes with Thomas Friedrich. When recurring nightmares send Marlene (Sandra Hüller) into a stupor at a hotel in rural Germany, her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) investigates the building, its personable owner Otto (August Schmölzer) and the local town of Steinbach. Mona uncovers a wealth of sinister secrets and is plagued by unsettling visions in both her waking and slumbering states.
Venus’s film plays with these liminal states of consciousness and is often visually arresting, with repeated, terrifying images of flaming destruction and people in pig masks. Clear antecedants for the film’s key hotel location and oneiric themes are The Shining and its follow-up Doctor Sleep, but Sleep bears comparison with other recent exceptional genre works, from the warped family dynamics and startling shocks of Ari Aster’s Hereditary to the unsettling supernatural elements of Joachim Trier’s Thelma. As the assured and eager Mona, Kohlhof is surely set to break out from German TV stardom, while Schmölzer steals it as the hilarious hotelier with something to hide.
Lou Thomas, Sight & Sound

  • Orig. title: Schlaf
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Distribution: Global Screen
  • Cinematography: Marius von Felbert
  • Editing: Silke Olthoff
  • Music: Johannes Lehninger
  • Sound: Tim Stephan, Stephan Konken
  • Production design: Lena Mundt