London Film Festival 2012 – day six: Sleeper’s Wake
Friday 19th October, 6pm – BFI Southbank
Sunday 21st October, 2pm – Ritzy
Sleeper’s Wake is a feature debut from Barry Berk that is competing in the First Feature category at the 56th London Film Festival. The film is a South African thriller based on the novel of the same name by Alastair Morgan.
The camera techniques, choice of shot and cinematography of Sleeper’s Wake are astonishing. It’s clear that Barry Berk was trying to show off his ample directorial skill. A plethora of different techniques that are more at home in experimental cinema are used. If there is one thing to say about Sleeper’s Wake, it’s that it is not shot in the generic shaky camera, quick edited style the genre is used to.
There is a strong central performance Lionel Newton as John Wraith, a bereaved writer trying to drink his problems away, starts the film off in good stead. He plays the part with a sincerity and authenticity that sets him out as a fine actor. Newton’s excellent performance cannot contend with the problems caused by the weak story and poor supporting cast.
The plot of Sleeper’s Wake is the main problem. It almost feels as if it’s a genre mash up. Needless scenes that are usually found in horror films clash with the story’s emotional core. Strange sounds in an empty house or spiders leaping out from nowhere, do nothing to enhance the narrative and simply confuse the tone. The plot gets increasingly less believable as the film rumbles and becomes outright silly, so silly that one of the characters ends up fighting a baboon while dressed in nothing but a loin cloth. Jay Antsey as Jackie does nothing to help the flimsy narrative, as she was poorly cast as a troubled 17-year-old, when she looks more like she’s in her twenties, and ends up doing an almost parodic impression of a surly teen.
Impressive aesthetic techniques and an excellent performance form Lionel Newton cannot salvage Sleeper’s Wake from its plot and supporting performances. One only hopes Berk and Newton move on to the bigger and better things they deserve.
Read more reviews from the 56th London Film Festival here.
Watch the trailer for Sleeper’s Wake here: