The Slow Life of a Wales Village, Rapidly Changing, in Sleep Furiously


A lingering, mildly lyrical look at village life, Sleep Furiously does for the mobile librarians of Wales what Sweetgrass did for the shepherds of Montana. Director Gideon Koppel’s Jewish refugee parents found a home in rural Wales, and indeed many of its inhabitants seem to be of their age. Schools fight to stay open, sheep are sheared, elders gossip between choir practices, and the local librarian drives his wares from home to home. Passing ways of life have always preoccupied artists, but the moving image has changed the way we perceive the loss. Little is explained, and often little needs to be; in conceiving his idyllic set pieces, fragmented conversations, and anthropological distance, Koppel recalls the salvage ethnography of Robert Flaherty, whose Nanook of the North established a norm for the genre. When the residents do speak, they often talk of how busy they are, how full life is, and despite the smaller scale and slower pace you believe them. “Do you think there’s an Idiot’s Guide to using the computer?” one older lady asks. Do you think someday someone will film us peering into our PCs, or arrange our iPads in the light like lost, exquisite tools?