Sleep and death are two sides of the same coin in Maria Ignatenko’s slow-burning psychological drama. Sleep of any kind eludes Victor (Vadik Korlyov), who when the film opens is on trial for the murder of his coworker. He is young, fresh-faced, and stoic in the stand. Before the witnesses are called, his past year unfolds in three chapters. And death is ever present – in the loss of Victor’s wife, in the act that lands him behind bars, and in the corpses of those lost on their ways home in the Russian winter.

Ignatenko is a director comfortable with grief’s silence and senselessness. Victor says little, but Korlyov’s performance conveys boundless loss and confusion in his newly lonely life. One of the film’s most poignant sequences occurs when he comes back to his flat for the first time after his wife’s death. The mundane actions of watering plants and dusting her photograph lead to the dream of holding her again, trying to reach her as her ghost sits unresponsive. Later, as he tries to haul a frozen corpse up from a river bank, the lone sound is his laboured breathing. The film leans into the incomprehensibility of fate through almost Lynchian stylings: unnervingly static lengthy shots, achronological and symbol-laden storytelling, and a dreamlike nightclub song under Roadhouse-esque lighting.

Another notable feature is the inescapability of work; aside from the aforementioned domestic sequence, the camera follows men and women eating, drinking, flirting, and sleeping in ship kitchens and trailer trucks. Factories, shipyards, and highways fill the screen in stark contrast to the barren Russian winter, both equally inhospitable and impersonal.

In Deep Sleep‘s meticulous craftsmanship and sense of loss and longing create an atmospheric drama with boundless sympathy for its harsh characters and landscape. This is one not to miss.



CAST: Vadik Korolyov, Dmitry Kubasov, Lyudmila Duplyakina, Galina Lebedinets, Vasilisa Zemskova

DIRECTOR: Maria Ignatenko

WRITER: Maria Ignatenko

SYNOPSIS: Victor is accused of having beaten a mechanic to death on a boat where he worked as a sailor, and the events leading up to the charge are shown in three chapters.