House of the Sleeping Beauties Movie Review
The film begins with an air of foreboding dread (Vadim Perelman on Quaaludes) as an elderly man, Edmund (Glowna), is seen descending a series of stairways at an empty rail station. He doesn't look happy. The reason? Although he's a successful businessman, he has been brooding and moping for 15 years since the death of his wife and daughter in a car crash. He goes to see his sinister friend Koga (Maximilian Schell) who tries to cheer him up by saying, "You know, we are both at an age in which it is filling to occupy ourselves with death." Kogi encourages Edmund to visit a "meditational" house (aka The House of the Sleeping Beauties) and Edmund complies. At the House, Edmund encounters the severe Madame (Angela Winkler) whom Edmund describes as "a bringer of death." Before she introduces him to his first sleeping beauty, she warns him, "Please don't play any weird pranks -- like sticking your finger in the girl's mouth." Of course, despite that alarm and despite being told by the Madame and Kogi to "be careful," as the maidens are successively unveiled before him, he pulls the finger stunt and a lot more besides.
Glowna lards on the portentousness as if this were Visconti's Death in Venice. The city is dark and somber and desolate. The skies are cloudy and often replete with thunder and lightning. Self-importance abounds. Artistic pretense is applied to the film like a second layer of filth. Characters engage in interior monologues with their own strange interludes, signifying nothing. And Edmund, in the presence of the naked women, waxes nostalgically about his life (he relates to a woman's breast about his mother eating her own hair for food until she was so bald she started to eat his hair too) and recites poetry (to a woman's crotch he declaims, "Toads, black dogs, and drowned corpses/That's what the night holds in store for me"). An angel of mercy even makes her appearance bathed in a heavenly light at the end of the picture. As Stephen Sondheim has written, "Art isn't easy."
But in truth, it isn't art at all. All of this bushwa is ultimately just an excuse for an old codger (and by extension, an old German actor/writer/director) to cavort with unconscious women in a state of drugged date rape. Each episode with the women is punctuated with a title card announcing "Two Weeks Later," etc. It is about as subtle as Criswell in Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead, announcing the next naked dancer by shouting stuff like "Bring me the Nubian maiden!" With each visit Edmund gets more and more perverted, climaxing (in more ways that one) with a sleep session with two women, where the old pervert forces himself upon a euthanized blonde, recalling, "The first time I had sex, it was with two girls." If this were a just world, Maximilian Schell would recreate his role as Hans Rolfe in Judgment at Nuremberg and prosecute Glowna and his film in a real court of law for charges of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Glowna has remarked that his film "is about transition, remembrance, mourning, guilt, loneliness, sex and death, eroticism, and dying." Hey! He left out the naked women.
Aka: Das Haus der schlafenden Schönen, The House of Sleeping Beauties.
Put that one over in the corner next to the dresser.