Gorgeous Cinemascope photography (which is done no justice whatsoever on the videotape copy from which I reviewed this film) is what makes Brother of Sleep a standout. Shot in the still-untouched-by-time Austrian Alps, this picture is difficult to describe in two paragraphs. But I'll try.
Elias (André Eisermann) is born a mystery. Mystically imbued with a gift for music -- an innate talent capable of causing his listeners to see and become one with heaven, however briefly -- Elias finds his childhood a hard one. Considered a devil by the inhabitants of his tiny mountain village, he has only two friends -- similarly outcast Peter (Ben Becker) and his Elias's sister Elsbeth (Dana Vávrová).
As they grow to adulthood, the three find themselves in a bizarre sort of love triangle, still outcasts from the rest of the village. As things go from bad to worse, culminating in a jealousy-fueled catastrophe, the three are torn apart... and come back together one last time.
Brother of Sleep has "artsy" stamped all over it, and I realize it sounds really corny, but there's a lot more to it than what I've briefly described. While it has, in my opinion, an overly pessimistic view on life, the subtleties of theme about one's search for God away from the walls of the church and a spiritual link with the natural world make it all worthwhile. (As I mentioned before, the cinematography (by Joseph Vilsmaier [Stalingrad], who also directed and produced) would certainly be outstanding on the big screen.) Also of note is the music, mostly on pipe organ (scored by Norbert J. Schneider), which equals any classical pieces I've ever heard.
Certainly not for everyone and likely to be inaccessible to many, thanks to its introspective and subtle style, Brother of Sleep is still a fine film that deserves to be seen.
In German with English subtitles. Aka Schlafes Bruder.
Run time: 127 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th September 1996
Production compaines: Dor Film Produktionsgesellschaft GmbH, Kuchenreuther Filmproduktion GmbH
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Joseph Vilsmaier
Producer: Joseph Vilsmaier
Screenwriter: Robert Schneider
Starring: André Eisermann as Elias, Dana Vávrová as Elsbeth, Ben Becker as Peter, Jochen Nickel as Köhler Michel, Jürgen Schornagel as Kurat Benzer, Paulus Manker as Oskar, Michaela Rosen as Seffin, Peter Franke as Seff, Detlef Bothe as Lukas, Michael Mendl as Nulf, Eva Mattes as Nulfin, Angelika Bartsch as Burga
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