Sleep Furiously

Sleep Furiously is a documentary film by Gideon Koppel about Trefeurig, a small farming community in Wales. Aphex Twin provides intermittent music (including a gentle piano motif that acts as a kind of signature tune for a central character) but mostly we hear the sounds of animals, farm machinery, the weather acting on the landscape, and unhurried human voices speaking in combinations of English and Welsh. The local school is closing down and old traditions are fading. We see the yellow library van, shot from on high, trundling across the hilly terrain. A wide shot is held while the van crosses from one side of the screen to the other, the landscape traversed by old books and a librarian worried about his new laptop, “I thought I might be retired before I’d have to use it”. At a sheepdog trial John and his dog make a bit of a mess of it, and the judges, sheltered in a nearby car, are embarrassed on his behalf. Clouds shift across the valley as a choir of voices begins. The camera focuses on the young woman conducting the rehearsal, silent instructions animating her face. The singers stumble and soar but we never see them. People in the film are seldom seen or spoken to directly. Aphex Twin appears again in time-lapse sequences casting the unpeopled landscape in a higher register, a tempo beyond the detail of human arrangements. A woman has her pet owl stuffed and then finds it’s too big for the coffee table. Its supporting branch is shortened while she tells the joiner how she froze the dead bird before sending it to a taxidermist in the post. The woman is the filmmaker’s mother, and she appears often through the film. Just before it ends these words appear on the screen, “It is only when I sense the end of things that I find the courage to speak/ the courage, but not the words”. The mood is elegiac but it’s not really about the end of things, it’s about how things change. The school kids are moulding clay. They squeeze and stretch the clay and make extrusions using a small tool that looks like a garlic press. The teacher tells them, “It does quite a lot of things, so long as you keep it in the right consistency”. Having come through winter the film ends on a shot of a single tree, branches and leaves blowing, animated – as the preceding 90 minutes have been – by an invisible and gentle spirit.

Thanks FM

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