This essay has been translated: please click HERE for the ENGLISH VERSION.

 

 

Presentato in anteprima mondiale all’interno della neonata piattaforma VoD Tao films1 curata dalla studiosa di Slow Cinema ed esperta dell’opera di Lav Diaz Nadin Mai2 (su cui sarà disponibile fino 30 marzo 2017), Sleep Has Her House [id., 2016] è il primo lungometraggio realizzato dal filmmaker sperimentale Scott Barley3, che nonostante la giovane età (poco più di ventiquattro anni) può già vantare all’attivo una corposa produzione di cortometraggi.
Girato tra la Scozia e il Galles nell’arco di quattro giorni, e terminato dopo un lavoro di post-produzione durato ben sedici mesi, Sleep Has Her House, più che l’opera di un regista esordiente, si presenta allo spettatore che ha seguito la produzione di Barley come il film summa di un percorso cominciato dall’autore gallese nel 2012 con il cortometraggio The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold [id., 2012]. Di quest’ultimo, Sleep Has Her House recupera alcune figure essenziali: l’assenza degli uomini, che viene controbilanciata dalla presenza degli animali (in entrambi i film, dei cavalli); il sopraggiungere della notte, che nei lavori di Barley è sempre premonitrice dell’apocalisse (intesa come rivelazione); l’attenzione riposta nel paesaggio naturale, carico di segni allarmanti (in Sleep Has Her House, un cervo morto e un incendio) e di epifanie di pura, terrificante bellezza (il temporale). Accanto a queste, ritroviamo in Sleep Has Her House altre due figure chiave della produzione artistica di Barley: la ripetizione (dei suoni, delle immagini, degli eventi naturali) e la morte (degli animali, del mondo vivente – Sleep Has Her House racconta il sopraggiungere dell’apocalisse –, ma anche del cinema, o meglio di certo cinema: lo schermo, ad un certo punto, diventerà nero). Di fatto, Sleep Has Her House si configura come una danza tra questi cinque elementi: l’animale, la notte, la natura, la ripetizione e la morte.

 

L’ANIMALE

I think to myself: “why am I drawn to animals?” – it is because a horse is a horse, a deer is a deer, they never pretend to be anything else. They just exist. There is more truth and purity in their being compared to that of a human. That is why I am drawn to them, rather than people.

– Scott Barley4

Come in The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold, con l’opening shot di Sleep Has Her House Barley elegge a protagonista del suo primo lungometraggio il mondo animale: due cavalli sono inquadrati in campo lungo, immersi nell’oscurità.
Rispetto al cortometraggio del 2012, i due cavalli di Sleep Has Her House sono distinguibili con difficoltà; la notte è già sopraggiunta. La principale differenza tra i due lavori, però, non coinvolge unicamente l’aspetto visivo: in The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold, Barley aveva optato per l’assenza di commento sonoro; l’inquadratura iniziale di Sleep Has Her House, invece, è occupata dal rumore del vento e da altri suoni difficilmente identificabili (l’eccezionale sound design è curato in solitaria dal regista).

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house the ethereal melancholy of seeing horses in the cold scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold e Sleep Has Her House: inquadrature d’apertura a confronto.

Sleep Has Her House racconta il sopraggiungere dell’apocalisse attraverso gli occhi degli animali (oltre ai cavalli, ricordiamo un cervo e un gufo): gli uomini, nel film, non ci sono. Non è una novità per Barley. Nei suoi precedenti cortometraggi, ad eccezione di Nightwalk [id., 2013], vi è spazio solo per due figure umane: da una parte, il filmmaker (Barley appare in Irresolute [id., 2013], Hours [id., 2015], Shadows [id., 2015], Hunter [id., 2015], The Sadness of The Trees – Part II [id., 2015]); dall’altra, lo spettatore (Barley: «Once the film is finished, it is no longer mine. It is yours»5).
Anche quando nel finale di Sleep Has Her House sopraggiungeranno il temporale e l’incendio, Barley riprenderà l’orrore soltanto attraverso gli occhi dei suoi due cavalli (una delle immagini più belle del film è l’inquadratura traballante in primissimo piano – della durata di quattro minuti circa – dell’occhio dell’animale, che con l’arrivo dei primi fulmini cerca disperatamente un riparo). I cavalli di Sleep Has Her House sono antropomorfizzati I believe in an interconnectedness within the universe, and so what I feel inside, I anthropomorphise and project on to the trees, the water, “the hand”, “the horse” etc.»6): hanno paura dell’apocalisse, della morte, come gli uomini.

sleep has her house recensione scott barley lo specchio scuro

L’apocalisse è vicina: un cavallo cerca un rifugio dal temporale nel finale di Sleep Has Her House.

 

LA NOTTE

I am a nyctophile. I love the darkness, and am simultaneously terrified by what could exist within it, for the simple reason one’s own imagination can conjure extreme horror, as well as beauty.  

– Scott Barley7

Se c’è un qualcosa che accade, un evento che attraversa l’intera produzione di Barley, Sleep Has Her House per primo, questo è il sopraggiungere della notte. The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold, Nightwalk, Hours, Hunter, Evenfall [id., 2015] e Sleep Has Her House immergono i loro protagonisti (e lo spettatore) nell’oscurità. La notte, nel cinema di Barley, è sia un luogo di rifugio che di incontro con l’ignoto, tanto per il filmmaker (uno dei cortometraggi di Barley si intitola significativamente Retirement [id., 2013]) quanto per lo spettatore, che nel buio della sala cinematografica o della sua stanza (Sleep Has Her House comincia con un’avvertenza: «This work has been intended to be viewed in complete darkness») trova la possibilità di esperire ciò che vede sullo schermo (Barley: «Above all, I want to give people an experience. That’s another reason why darkness is so important – to be fully immersed in this world»8).
Sleep Has Her House è con ogni probabilità il film di Barley in cui si concretizza con maggior rigore il tentativo del regista di offuscare il visibile. Per fare ciò, Barley utilizza due espedienti: nelle sequenze girate di notte, un’illuminazione frontale, unidirezionale ed extra-diegetica (una piccola torcia tenuta dal regista, che è anche operatore di ripresa), talmente debole da rendere praticamente invisibile ciò che avviene ai lati dell’inquadratura, simile a quella utilizzata da Philippe Grandrieux in White Epilepsy [id., 2012], e nei momenti di climax (l’apocalisse finale) lo schermo nero.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

L’oscurità di Sleep Has Her House conduce lo spettatore all’interno di un mondo trasfigurato, dominato dalla presenza dell’ignoto («I want to seduce through obfuscation, true obfuscation, to suggest a beyond, a liminality suspiciously cloaked within the ‘fuscus’»9), in cui il suono (a volte innaturale, a volte troppo realistico) è utilizzato come un tensore dell’immagine10. In due sequenze del film, ciò avviene in modo particolarmente intenso: la prima, posta all’inizio di Sleep Has Her House, una long take di quasi dieci minuti, è l’inquadratura di una cascata, filmata con un lento zoom all’indietro. Qui il sonoro, dall’assoluto (e irreale) silenzio, si fa più intenso man mano che la cascata si fa più piccola nell’inquadratura, per poi scendere nuovamente a zero una volta che il getto d’acqua è diventato praticamente invisibile.

sleep has her house scott barley sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

La sequenza della cascata di Sleep Has Her House

La seconda sequenza in cui il sonoro funziona da tensore dell’immagine, riempiendola letteralmente, è il prefinale di Sleep Has Her House. Lo schermo è nero: nel film, l’apocalisse avviene sotto forma di un incredibile assalto sensoriale, portato non contro gli occhi dello spettatore (a parte alcuni inserti subliminali, non ci sono immagini, il visibile è completamente offuscato), bensì contro le sue orecchie, la sua immaginazione.

 

LA NATURA

I find it strange how the most profound things for us to witness in life are taken most for granted, and mostly ignored. I want to give us the opportunity to really see, to really hear, to really feel, and to fall in love again, and to be terrified, to be in awe of the natural world, and how it is uncannily not real.

– Scott Barley11

Fin dai suoi primi cortometraggi, l’ambientazione dei film di Barley è sempre stata una proiezione dell’interiorità del filmmaker. Anche la natura di Sleep Has Her House non ha niente di naturale: costruito dal regista combinando in maniera subliminale immagini di paesaggi diversi (Galles e Scozia), il mondo del film diventa il regno dell’ignoto. Proseguendo il percorso cominciato con i suoi lavori più recenti (in particolare The Sadness of The Trees), Barley con Sleep Has Her House si allontana definitivamente dai processi di figurazione convenzionali, realizzando un film di pitture in movimento, combinando in una stessa immagine diversi strati: riprese live action (realizzate con un iPhone 6), fotografie e disegni.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

Nel descrivere Hinterlands [id., 2016] (trad. it. “Entroterra”), uno dei suoi ultimi (e più riusciti) lavori, Barley ha evocato un movimento di penetrazione, un andare oltre la superficie delle immagini della realtà: «The image’s reality treads closer to the abstract, leaving the sunset and trees behind. As we enter the image’s gloaming, it reveals its true eye: reality’s pure haptic energy, where there is nothing but sonorous light, and the dregs of the Unknown.»12 La stessa cosa succede in Sleep Has Her House: immergendo lo spettatore in una natura non naturale, Barley cerca di fargli toccare con gli occhi i molteplici strati delle immagini del film.

 

LA RIPETIZIONE

It’s a very different thing – to do a feature instead of a short. Sleep Has Her House is a strange blend of installation and my own cinema.

– Scott Barley13

La struttura narrativa di Sleep Has Her House è concepita all’insegna della ripetizione. Nonostante si tratti del primo lungometraggio dell’autore, questa non è una novità nell’opera di Barley: come ha sottolineato lo stesso regista dopo la realizzazione di uno dei suoi cortometraggi più lo-fi, Hours, la ripetizione ha un ruolo centrale all’interno della sua filmografia. 
Al pari di Hours, Sleep Has Her House possiede una struttura formale concepibile come «una partitura musicale»14. Elenchiamo qui di seguito alcune delle figure che si ripetono in Sleep Has Her House: i cavalli (2’, 65’, 75’); la cascata (5’, 68’); i cerbiatti (20′, 35′); il corso d’acqua ai piedi delle montagne (18’, 54’); il cielo stellato (23′; 27′; 28′; 39′).

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

I due cavalli di Sleep Has Her House.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

Il corso d’acqua del film.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

Il cielo stellato.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

La cascata.

Una menzione a parte merita la sequenza che va dal 18′ al 38′ – quasi una installazione di contemplative cinema dentro il film – che combina, tramite dissolvenze incrociate, immagini di foreste, rami, foglie. 

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

La ripetizione di Sleep Has Her House è però destinata a interrompersi: nella seconda parte, il film si apre alla differenza, che assume la forma della morte.

 

LA MORTE

The film is a dance; that nature itself is dancing with both the beauty and the chaos, and in the end, the chaos wins: death wins. Life transpires into the new – through death.

– Scott Barley15

Negli ultimi lavori di Barley, l’immagine sembra essere sempre sul punto di polverizzarsi sotto la vibrazione prodotta dallo scontro tra la superficie della realtà e la sua rielaborazione filmica (Hinterlands). Non è un caso che a partire da Hunter, il lavoro più metafisico di Barley, subentri prepotentemente nell’opera del filmmaker gallese la figura della morte. In Sleep Has Her House, è proprio la morte ad aprire alla differenza la struttura all’insegna della ripetizione del film: nella foresta, di notte, l’occhio della macchina da presa scopre un cerbiatto morto.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

Come nel precedente Hinterlands, la prima parte di Sleep Has Her House serve a Barley per condurre lo spettatore dentro un mondo carico di segni. Alla luce di ciò, il cerbiatto morto si configura come un vero e proprio presagio degli eventi apocalittici che segneranno la seconda parte di Sleep Has Her House con l’arrivo del temporale (la sequenza, costituita da un’unica inquadratura della durata di 12’, diventerà The Green Ray [id., 2017], il primo capitolo di una trilogia che comprenderà, come affermato dal regista sul suo profilo Facebook, Mouths in the Grass e Lustre to Void).

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

Gli ultimi venti minuti di Sleep Has Her House registrano l’apocalisse, la fine del mondo e delle immagini – lo schermo sarà completamente nero. «There is nothing but sonorous light, and the dregs of the Unknown».
Eppure la morte di Sleep Has Her House non è un evento negativo. Essa prepara la rinascita: «Life transpires into the new – through death». Non deve sorprendere allora che Barley abbia affermato di aver subito, durante le riprese di Sleep Has her House, l’influenza della letteratura di Georges Bataille. In Hunter, la scoperta della morte (ancora un cerbiatto agonizzante in un rivolo d’acqua) segnava l’inizio di un vero e proprio viaggio spirituale per Barley («Hunter was a a very important film for me. I was suffering with very debilitating depression and that film perhaps saved my life»16), che avrebbe portato il regista a guardare sempre più in alto, dall’acqua alla terra, fino al cielo. In Sleep Has Her House, la morte – non una morte qualunque, ma la morte definitiva, la fine del mondo – si configura come la trasgressione di un limite, esperienza insieme estatica ed intollerabile, al punto che le immagini non possono registrarla (lo schermo è nero).
Non riveliamo l’ultima, sorprendente inquadratura del film, quella che viene dopo la fine di tutte le cose; possiamo solo anticipare, parafrasando il Bataille de L’erotismo, che Sleep Has Her House, splendida opera prima, è un film che «afferma la vita fin dentro la morte»17.

 

NOTE

1. Tao films (https://tao-films.com/) è una piattaforma di video on demand nata l’1 gennaio 2017 grazie a Nadin Mai. Ogni tre mesi, Tao films rinnova il proprio programma, che presenta sia cortometraggi che lungometraggi, con film provenienti da tutto il mondo. A differenza di altre piattaforme VoD, Tao films offre un servizio streaming valido per tutte le nazioni.

2. Nadin Mai è una ricercatrice indipendente autrice di numerosi saggi sul cinema di Lav Diaz (per maggiori informazioni, cfr. https://theartsofslowcinema.com/). Per Lo Specchio Scuro, ha pubblicato l’articolo Lav Diaz: Un’introduzione (https://specchioscuro.it/lav-diaz-an-introduction/).

3. Al cinema di Scott Barley (scottbarley.weebly.com ; vimeo.com/scottbarley) abbiamo dedicato numerosi articoli su Lo Specchio Scuro: una monografia, le analisi di Evenfall [id., 2015] e Shadows [id., 2015] e un’intervista.

4. Da una conversazione privata con il regista.

5. Scott Barley, in Dustin Chang (a cura di), Interview with Scott Barley, http://www.dustinchang.com/2016/02/scott-barley-interview.html.

6Ibidem.

7. Scott Barley, in Nadin Mai (a cura di), Sleep Has Her House: Interview with the Director, https://tao-films.com/selected/1/0e677b08-0b86-4b1a-b159-9a6c0930de88.

8Ibidem.

9Ibidem.

10. M. Chion, David Lynch, Lindau, Torino, 2000, p. 50.

11. Scott Barley, in Nadin Mai (a cura di), Sleep Has Her House: Interview with the Director, https://tao-films.com/selected/1/0e677b08-0b86-4b1a-b159-9a6c0930de88.

12https://vimeo.com/185248010.

13. Da una conversazione privata con il regista.

14. Alberto Libera, Il cinema sperimentale di Scott Barley: da The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold [2012] a Hours [2015], https://specchioscuro.it/scott-barley/.

15. Da una conversazione privata con il regista.

16. Scott Barley, in Dustin Chang (a cura di), Interview with Scott Barley, http://www.dustinchang.com/2016/02/scott-barley-interview.html.

17. Georges Bataille, L’érotisme (1957); tr. it. L’erotismo, Mondadori, Milano, 1972, p. 19.

 

separatore

L’articolo è stato scritto in italiano: cliccare QUI per la versione in ITALIANO.

 

Sleep Has Her House [2016] is the first feature film realised by the experimental filmmaker Scott Barley, who, despite his young age (just over twenty-four) has already directed an extensive production of short films1, and screened for the first time through Tao films2, a VoD platform (where the film is available until the end of March) curated by the independent researcher and Lav Diaz expert Nadin Mai3.
Shot between Scotland and Wales over four days, with a post-production work that lasted about sixteen months, Sleep Has Her House, rather than the first work of a director, appears to the viewer who followed Barley’s previous films as the summa of a journey begun by the filmmaker in 2012 with the short film The Ethereal Melancholy of Seeing Horses in the Cold [2012]. From the latter, Sleep Has Her House recovers some essantial figures: the absence of men, which is counterbalanced by the presence of animals (in both films, horses); the arrival of the night, which in the works of Barley is always predictive of the apocalypse (to be interpreted as its original meaning, revelation); the attention paid to natural landscape, full of alarming signs (in Sleep Has Her House, a dead deer and a fire) and epiphanies of pure, terrifying beauty (the storm). Besides, in the film we find two other key figures of Barley’s artistic production: repetition (of sounds, images, of natural events) and death (of the animals, of the living world – Sleep Has Her House tells the arrival of the apocalypse – but also of a certain kind of cinema: at some point, the screen will turn totally black). As we are going to show, Sleep Has Her House is conceived as a dance between these five figures: the animal, night, nature, repetition and death.

 

THE ANIMAL

I think to myself: “why am I drawn to animals?” – it is because a horse is a horse, a deer is a deer, they never pretend to be anything else. They just exist. There is more truth and purity in their being compared to that of a human. That is why I am drawn to them, rather than people.

– Scott Barley4

As in The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold, with the opening shot of Sleep Has Her House Barley elects as protagonist of his first feature film the animal world: two horses are framed in long shot and immersed in darkness.
Compared to the short film of 2012, the two horses of Sleep Has Her House are distinguishable only with difficulty; the night is already coming up. The main difference between the two works, however, is not only visual: The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold lacks of any sound; on the contrary, the opening shot of Sleep Has Her House is occupied by the noise of wind and other sounds difficult to identify (the amazing sound design is realised by the director himself).

sleep has her house scott barley review

sleep has her house the ethereal melancholy of seeing horses in the cold scott barley review

The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold and Sleep Has Her House: the opening shots compared.

Sleep Has Her House is about the arrival of the apocalypse seen through the eyes of animals (besides the two horses of the first shots, we see a deer and an owl): there are no men in the film. This is not a surprise for the viewer who knows Barley’s cinematic world. In his previous short films, with the only exception of Nightwalk [2013], there is space for only two human figures: the filmmaker (Barley appears in Irresolute [2013], Hours [2015], Shadows [2015], Hunter [2015], The Sadness of The Trees – Part II [2015]) and the viewer (Barley: «Once the film is finished, it is no longer mine. It is yours»5).
Even when, at the end of Sleep Has Her House, the storm and fire are coming, Barley depicts the horror only through the eyes of his two horses (one of the most beautiful images of the film is the big close-up of the eye of the animal, that is scared by the arrival of the storm). In Sleep Has Her House, the horses are anthropomorphized I believe in an interconnectedness within the universe, and so what I feel inside, I anthropomorphise and project on to the trees, the water, “the hand”, “the horse” etc.»6): they are afraid of the apocalypse, of death, like men.

sleep has her house review scott barley analysis

The apocalypse is near: a horse is looking for a shelter from the storm in the ending part of Sleep Has Her House.

 

THE NIGHT

I am a nyctophile. I love the darkness, and am simultaneously terrified by what could exist within it, for the simple reason one’s own imagination can conjure extreme horror, as well as beauty.  

– Scott Barley7

If there is something happening, an event that characterizes Barley’s entire production, it is the nightfall. The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold, Nightwalk, Hours, Hunter, Evenfall [id., 2015] and Sleep Has Her House immerse their protagonists (and the viewer) in the dark. The night, in Barley’s universe, is both a place of shelter and a sanctuary of the unknown, for the filmmaker and the viewer, who in the darkness of the movie theater or his room (Sleep has her House begins with a warning: «This work has been intended to be viewed in complete darkness») has the opportunity to experience what he sees on the screen (Barley: «Above all, I want to give people an experience. That’s another reason why darkness is so important – to be fully immersed in this world»8).
Sleep Has Her House is probably the film in which Barley expresses with the greatest rigor his attempt to obfuscate the visible. This is expressed in two ways. The first one occurs in the sequences shot at night: Barley used a frontal, unidirectional and extra-diegetic lighting (a small torch is held by the director himself, who is also the cameraman of Sleep Has Her House), that is so weak as to make what is happening in the frame sides virtually invisible (a similar effect occurs in Philippe Grandrieux’s White Epilepsy [id., 2012]). The second way through which Barley obfuscates the visible occurs during the apocalypse, in the end of Sleep Has Her House, when the screen is totally black.

sleep has her house scott barley review

The darkness of Sleep Has Her House plunges the viewer into a transfigured world, dominated by the presence of the unknown («I want to seduce through obfuscation, true obfuscation, to suggest a beyond, a liminality suspiciously cloaked within the ‘fuscus’»9), in which the sound (sometimes unnatural, sometimes too realistic) is used like an image tensor. In two sequences of the film, this occurs in a powerful way: the first one, at the beginning of Sleep Has Her House, is a long take (almost ten minutes) of a waterfall. Here the sound, from the absolute (and unreal) silence, becomes more intense as the waterfall becomes smaller in the frame, and then falls back to zero once the jet of water has become practically invisible.

sleep has her house scott barleysleep has her house scott barley review sleep has her house scott barley review

The waterfall sequence of Sleep Has Her House.

The second sequence in which the sound works like an image tensor is the ending of Sleep Has Her House. The screen is totally black: the apocalypse comes in the form of an incredible sensorial shock not affecting  the eyes of the viewer (except for some subliminal inserts, there are no images, the visible is completely obscured) but his ears, his imagination.

 

NATURE

I find it strange how the most profound things for us to witness in life are taken most for granted, and mostly ignored. I want to give us the opportunity to really see, to really hear, to really feel, and to fall in love again, and to be terrified, to be in awe of the natural world, and how it is uncannily not real.

– Scott Barley10

Since his first short films, the setting of Barley’s works has always been a projection of the interiority of the filmmaker. Even nature in Sleep Has Her House is not natural: built by the director combining subliminally images of different landscapes (Wales and Scotland), the world of the film becomes the realm of the unknown. Barley continues the journey he has begun with his latest works (especially The Sadness of The Trees): with Sleep Has Her House he moves away definitively from any conventional process of figuration, creating a film akin to paintings that move, mixing live action (shot with an iPhone 6), still photography and hand-drawn images.

sleep has her house scott barley review

In describing Hinterlands [id., 2016], one of his latest (and most accomplished) works, Barley has evoked a movement of penetration, the existence of a beyond hidden inside the surface of the images of reality: «The image’s reality treads closer to the abstract, leaving the sunset and trees behind. As we enter the image’s gloaming, it reveals its true eye: reality’s pure haptic energy, where there is nothing but sonorous light, and the dregs of the Unknown.»11 The same thing occurs in Sleep Has Her House: by immersing the viewer in an unnatural nature, Barley invites him  to touch with eyes the multiple layers of the images of Sleep Has Her House.

 

REPETITION

It’s a very different thing – to do a feature instead of a short. Sleep Has Her House is a strange blend of installation and my own cinema.

– Scott Barley12

The narrative structure of Sleep Has Her House is conceived through the figure of repetition. Although it is the author’s first feature film, this is nothing new in Barley’s work: as pointed out by the director after the realization of one of his short films, Hours, repetition is a central figure of his filmography.
Like Hours, Sleep Has Her House has a formal structure conceivable as a «musical score.»13 We list below some of the figures that are repeated in Sleep Has Her House: the horses (2 ‘, 65’, 75 ‘); the waterfall (5 ‘, 68’); the deers (20 ‘, 35’); the river at the foot of the mountains (18 ‘, 54’); the sky (23 ‘; 27’; 39 ‘).

sleep has her house scott barley review

sleep has her house scott barley

The horses.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

The river at the foot of the mountains.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

The sky.

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

sleep has her house scott barley recensione lo specchio scuro

The waterfall.

The sequence ranging from 18 ‘to 38’ – nearly an installation of contemplative cinema within a film – deserves a separate mention: it combines, through dissolves, images of forests, branches, leaves.

sleep has her house scott barley

sleep has her house review

Repetition in Sleep Has Her House, however, is destined to stop: in the second part, the film opens to the difference, which takes the form of death.

 

DEATH

The film is a dance; that nature itself is dancing with both the beauty and the chaos, and in the end, the chaos wins: death wins. Life transpires into the new – through death.

– Scott Barley14

In Barley’s most recent works, the image seems to be about to explode under the vibration produced by the collision between the surface of reality and its filmic elaboration (see Hinterlands). It is no coincidence that since Hunter, Barley’s most metaphysical work, the figure of death enters the work of the filmmaker. In Sleep Has Her House, it is death that opens the film’s repetetive structure to the difference: in the woods, at night, the eye of the camera discovers a deer lying dead.

sleep has her house scott barley review

sleep has her house scott barley

As in Hinterlands, the first part of Sleep Has Her House serves to Barley to lead the viewer into a world full of mysterious signs. This is why the dead deer works like an omen of the apocalyptic events that will occur in the second part, with the arrival of a destructive storm (this sequence, consisting of a single frame lasting 12 minutes, will become an autonomous film short, The Green Ray [id., 2017], the first chapter of a trilogy that will include, as stated by the director on his Facebook profile, Mouths in the Grass and Lustre to Void).

sleep has her house review

sleep has her house scott barley

The last twenty minutes of the film depict the apocalypse, the end of the world and of images – the screen is completely black. «There is nothing but sonorous light, and the dregs of the Unknown».
Yet the death in Sleep Has Her House is not a negative event. It prepares the rebirth: «Life transpires into the new – through death.» It is not surprising, then, that Barley has claimed to have been influenced, during the shooting, by Georges Bataille’s literature. In Hunter, the discovery of death (another deer is dying in a stream of water) marked the beginning of a spiritual journey for the filmmaker («Hunter was a a very important film for me. I was suffering with very debilitating depression and that film perhaps saved my life»15), which would have led the director to raise  his camera from water to land up to the sky. In Sleep Has Her House, death – not a simple death, but final death, the end of the world – emerges as the transgression of a limit, an experience that is both ecstatic and intolerable, to the point that even the images can not record it (the screen is  black).
We do not reveal the ultimate, surprising shot of the film, the one that comes after the death of all the living things; we can only say, paraphrasing Bataille (The Eroticism), that Sleep Has Her House, a beautiful debut, is a film that «affirms life even in death

 

NOTES

1. http://scottbarley.weebly.com/; https://vimeo.com/scottbarley.

2https://tao-films.com/.

3https://theartsofslowcinema.com/.

4From a private chat with the director.

5. Dustin Chang (edited by), Interview with Scott Barley, http://www.dustinchang.com/2016/02/scott-barley-interview.html.

6. Ibidem.

7Nadin Mai (edited by), Sleep Has Her House: Interview with the Director, https://tao-films.com/selected/1/0e677b08-0b86-4b1a-b159-9a6c0930de88.

8Ibid.

9Ibid.

10Nadin Mai (edited by), Sleep Has Her House: Interview with the Director, https://tao-films.com/selected/1/0e677b08-0b86-4b1a-b159-9a6c0930de88.

11https://vimeo.com/185248010.

12. From a private chat with the director.

13. Alberto Libera, https://specchioscuro.it/scott-barley/#english.

14. From a private chat with the director.

15. Dustin Chang (edited by), Interview with Scott Barley, http://www.dustinchang.com/2016/02/scott-barley-interview.html.