Fantasia Review: ‘Sleep’ blurs the lines between dreams and reality

How do you separate our dreams from reality? How much would it take for your dreams to become so real you start to wonder where they come from and if they are real?

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Marlene has night terrors. Struggling to sleep every night, she has horrific visions that she has become convinced are real. Mona, her daughter, has been forced into the maternal role in her mother’s life, struggling to keep up with the doctor’s appointments, medications, and even simply keeping Marlene calm when she’s waking from the throes of a disturbing dream.

Marlene has begun to suspect her nightmares are real after she stumbles across an image in a magazine that appears to be where her dreams take place. When she takes a trip to investigate, she has a nervous breakdown, forcing Mona to follow and piece together what happened.

Sleep is an atmospheric and effective thriller about the horror of inherited trauma, about the secrets that can rip us apart. As it peels back, the layers for dreams from the reality of the world that Mona and Marlene inhabit and the core of the trauma they share is exposed and connected to the time and place they live in.

A confident first feature from director Michael Venus, the film is anchored by a phenomenal central performance by Gro Swantje Kohlhof as Mona navigates her own trauma, her mother’s, and, in many ways, the trauma of the German people.

Schlaf is atmospheric, dark, moody, and unsettling, and one to add to your watch list.


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