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‘The Man Who Sleeps’ still hypnotizes 50 year on

Cast: Jacques Spiesser, Ludmila Mikael Director: Georges Perec, Bernard Queysanne   "You have no desire to carry on.”   "...

Cast: Jacques Spiesser, Ludmila Mikael

Director: Georges Perec, Bernard Queysanne


"You have no desire to carry on.”


"You are alone and drifting."

The Man Who Sleeps isn’t a film, it’s a spiritual experience. It can’t be called a film in the traditional sense, it’s more of a video essay in today’s lingo. It follows a man as he lives his day-to-day life. He’s antisocial and lonely; the images play one after the other, and a voice-over accompanies it. The voice-over is both ironic and depressing at once. 

Shot gorgeously in black-and-white, The Man Who Sleeps can rank amongst the most depressing films of all time. The shots are hypnotising and the voice-over adds to that effect. The film in one word is “hypnotizing”. The film is both extremely depressing and deeply enlightening as well (Kant’s definition of enlightenment). The film is a montage of beautiful shots of everyday life, with the voice-over becoming more and more “hostile” as time passes, which reflects one’s life. We grow and become more and more hostile with age, don’t we?

Silence can become overwhelming after a certain point, and this film showcases that perfectly. The main character never interacts with anybody except for when he really has to, thinking it would do him good, but the silence after all this also feels like noise and voices to him, and he tries to block the silence as well, but we can’t block silence, can we?

The voice-over in this is basically the man’s maddening thoughts that have consumed him wholly;  he is not the one who controls his thoughts, it’s the other way around. The maddening isolation eventually takes a toll on him, it would no matter what he tries to do.

The man doesn’t feel like he belongs in this world — don’t we all, deep down, feel the same way. We all feel out of place at times, some more than others, and this film brilliantly captures that. We’re all trying to find something that makes us feel we belong with others, and most of us can’t; the man can’t find anything that makes him feel like he belongs.

Alienation brings about a fact that most of us wouldn’t realize normally, that nobody actually cares; the man realizes this, and isolates himself more and more — nobody would want to interact with others if he/she realized that nobody cared about him/her, would they? 

The Man Who Sleeps was released 50 years ago on  June 24, and it will always be a constant reminder that we need people to survive in this, sometimes, cruel world.

A young student decides to have no more interaction with the world than is needed to minimally sustain life. His increasingly automaton-like behavior is coupled with a strange clarity of insight about the world around him.

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