Sleep Furiously (U)

This gentle portrait of a Welsh farming community comes as a vital reminder of a more patient, but no less vivid, way of living

Gideon Koppel's documentary Sleep Furiously begins with a town crier in full regalia walking through open countryside, two mutts trotting at his heels. If you wanted to be pessimistic or disparaging, you might see this image as a metaphor for a certain kind of art-cinema practitioner: a lonely figure trudging through desolate terrain, a few dogged followers tagging along behind.

And perhaps this might not be an entirely inaccurate description of Gideon Koppel's position: in the current climate of cinema, Sleep Furiously is about as marginal a film as you can imagine. After all, according to the popcorn-culture worldview, cinema is meant to be loud, colourful, a distraction from reality, a perpetual headlong plummet towards the new. All the more reason, then, to cherish non-conformist outbursts of quietness such as this.

Koppel's subject is Trefeurig, a hill-farming community in mid-Wales. There's nothing remotely extraordinary, it seems, about this place, and that's what interests Koppel, whose German refugee parents settled there. Koppel's interest is in catching the everyday, even the mundane, but he does so with extraordinary eye, and ear, and patience.

There's no commentary, and no narrative except the routine story of a year's passing. The director's mother goes for a walk with her dog, a mobile librarian hands out Dodie Smith and 100 Great Curries, a choir sings, schoolchildren rattle cans, calves and pigs are born, meetings held, commemorative photos taken. Comedy flourishes in odd moments, with the film's subjects showing an eccentricity that's matter-of-fact rather than flamboyant: taking a stuffed owl to be refurbished, Mrs Koppel recalls the taxidermist's original instructions: "Freeze it and when it's really frozen, put it in the post."

People cope with simple troubles, often caused by the unpredictability of animals: a man is driven to distraction by some very uncooperative sheep (although it may be his own fault, an observer suggests, for spooking them with his yellow hat). Things are occasionally made remarkably what people say in passing: "like rugby players in a scrum", someone comments of a litter of piglets suckling.

Koppel's own camerawork shows that he's a painter as much as a film-maker. Sometimes, he gives us the outright sublime: a tree in a field of winter white; swirling rain and a glint of light on water. But he also has a knack for framing an image around an incidental detail: a dog is positioned in just the right spot to give us a pricelessly comic shot of the creature gazing, with apparent astonishment, at a wool truck vanishing into the distance.

On a hillside stretching across the screen, a distant flock of sheep parades across the top of the screen in a white dotted line. Then another line of dots appears at the bottom of the screen. And then the very last white dot in the top row suddenly turns tail and heads back in the opposite direction: nature provides its own subtle sight gags, if, like Koppel, you're prepared to watch and wait long enough.

Sleep Furiously might come across as an arcane, old-fashioned study, but there are bursts of energy to bear out the title (which alludes to a sample "impossible" sentence devised by the linguist-philosopher Noam Chomsky). The most self-consciously arty moment is a literal illustration: a speeded-up image of a small child thrashing jerkily in its slumber. But the film bears out the way that a village too, dozy as it seems, is alive with energy if you look closely and patiently at its people, its manners, its rhythms.

Koppel's film belongs to a tradition of cinematic ruralism that has somewhat fallen out of repair in Britain but still flourishes in France. Take Raymond Depardon's ongoing series of documentaries, of which the latest, Modern Life, came out here recently; or Nicolas Philibert's art-house hit Etre et Avoir, with which Sleep Furiously shares a French producer (the other executive producer is our own Mike Figgis).

Some viewers might feel that Sleep Furiously is purveying too cosy and reassuring an image of rural life. There is, admittedly, much talk in it about the old days, about things changing for the worse; we become aware of a creeping sense of extinction hovering over the village, whose school is about to be closed. The one false note is a local man spouting awful sub-Pam Ayres doggerel complaining that a new metal signpost isn't as good as the old wooden one. But all these elements of regret also reveal an anger and a determination to preserve at least fragments of a disappearing order: that sort of spirit doesn't necessarily have to be seen as conservative nostalgia. I'd hate you to think I was recommending this film only as a detox after Star Trek and Wolverine, although it is that too. But more than that, Sleep Furiously is a portrait of a place, of a communal state of mind, and of a film-maker's idiosyncratic sensibility. It's a thing of quiet, off-beat, tender poetry, and I defy you not to warm to it.

Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
exhibition Gillian Orr traces the movement from Bram Stoker to Kate Bush
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone