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NYFF '11 Review: 'Sleeping Sickness' A Morality Tale That Doesn't Fulfill Its Promise

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 8, 2011 2:10 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Poor Ulrich Köhler. His first feature "Bungalow" was a quiet, very reserved tale about a young soldier going AWOL. Instead of finishing his service, he gives into lethargy, laying around and doing nothing while hoping the military doesn't catch up with him. Once he's introduced to his brother's sweetheart, he finally finds his purpose: get in her pants at all costs. No, it wasn't terribly ambitious, but it was a relatively solid debut and was interesting enough to make those who actually saw it keep an eye on the new German filmmaker. Four years passed and finally his sophomore picture "Windows On Monday" was unleashed with a whimper. This film -- about a wife rejecting her routine middle-class life and responsibilities -- saw the director slightly refining his style, but also failing to make a truly deep impression in its festival run. Neither of these films were bad (in fact, this writer quite liked 'Windows'), but their meandering nature and unattractive simplicity didn't do them any favors when pitted against things like "The Free Will" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" at Berlinale. The ante had to be upped. Sensing this, Köhler uprooted and went to Africa for his latest endeavor. Would a fresh landscape invigorate his sauntering aesthetic? Now that his German brethren are stirring conversation and acclaim with their "Dreileben" trilogy series, it's an even greater chance to finally catch the attention of festival goers. Unfortunately, "Sleeping Sickness" is a lot like his previous films, much to its own detriment.

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