Sleepwalk (1986)

Sleepwalk (1986)

“Everything she had forgotten, everything she had lost sight of, suddenly flowed back into her heart — and the spell was broken.”

When a stenographer (Suzanne Fletcher) is hired to translate an ancient Chinese manuscript, she finds the world around her subtly shifting in fantastical and sometimes scary ways.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Fantasy
  • Living Nightmare
  • New York City

This first feature film by Jim Jarmusch’s partner Sara Driver is a quirky, decidedly experimental mood piece set in a New York City that is both mind-numbingly mundane and inconceivably fantastical. The film opens with a scroll being placed in and recovered from a secure spot:

… then shifts to an office, where we see workers trying to pass the time either by zoning out while getting their tasks done:

… or acting out, as when Fletcher’s roommate (Ann Magnuson) bugs their boss about his weight and potato chip eating, or tries to bum money off of hard-working Fletcher.

Eventually we see that Fletcher has a son (Dexter Lee):

… who seems to primarily take care of himself. Fletcher, meanwhile, is obsessed with a new job she’s gotten translating the scroll we saw in the opening sequence — and as she writes out the story, we’re meant to understand that it’s somehow impacting (and/or interacting with) her reality as well.

It’s all highly atmospheric and somewhat spooky, yet makes little sense. Watch for Steve Buscemi in one of his earliest roles as an “office worker”, though he doesn’t have much to do or say.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Good use of New York locales
  • Jim Jarmusch’s cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for fans of this type of experimental cinema. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


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