A Slow Journey Into Banal Observation in Two Gates of Sleep


Recalling both the process-oriented cinema of Lisandro Alonso (minus the precise attention to detail) and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (without the humor), Alistair Banks Griffin’s Two Gates of Sleep devotes the bulk of its running time to observing two brothers transporting their mother’s coffin to its final resting place. As the pair of young men slowly traverses the rural countryside with the cumbersome box, fording a river or stopping to spear fish for food, tensions mount between them, leading to a final showdown that doesn’t quite come out of nowhere, but feels cursorily set up nonetheless. As a work of narrative fiction, the film is too little invested in character to make the occasional intrusions of plot meaningful, while its editing is overly elliptical and its actions too perfunctorily observed to make it work as a documentary study of human activity. The opening 20 minutes, though unnecessarily opaque, offer a series of occasionally haunting images (a giant bird flying around a cabin, a TV on the fritz picking up odd bits of programming), giving hints of welcome mysteries and subtle tensions. But once the mother dies and the brothers’ trip begins, the film becomes little more than a slow journey into banal observation.