DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Winter Sleepers, Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, Blind Chance, Workshop Exercises


Title:  Winter Sleepers   (Winterschlafer)

Release Date:  1997

Nationality and Language: Germany, German

Running time: 122 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company:  WinStar

Director; Writer: Tom Tykwer, based on a novel by Francoise Pyszora


Cast:   Marie-Lou Sellem, Heino Ferch

Technical:  CinemaScope

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  cinematography



Movie Review of Tom Twyker’s Winter Sleepers

Winter Sleepers, directed by Tom Twyker, from Wingate (1997), filmed in Bavaria and Switzerland, in German, filmed in CinemaScope, and Dolby Digital.  Starring Marie-Lou Sellem, Heino Ferch, based on a novel by Francoise Pyszora.


So far, this astonishing film played only one week in the Twin Cities, at the Landmark Uptown Theater, released three years in the US after its European run, and not by a well known independent distributor.  (New Line, Miramax, Sony—why didn’t you pick this up before?)  This is an earlier masterpiece from Tom Twyker, German director of Run Lola Run (1999), the multiple- ending thriller (in the style of Sliding Doors) filmed in the striking area of East Berlin, near the Brandenberg Gate, that I had visited myself just a few weeks before seeing that film.  


On its surface, this Winter Sleepers (WinterSchlafer) is a brooding, descending dreamlike mystery drama that mixes John Sayles, David Lynch, Robert Altman, Magnolia, American Beauty, and even Clive Barker, and maybe Bille August and Smilla’s Sense of Snow.  Several characters that seem to be drifting through life in another dominion are drawn together by a truck and auto accident on a mountain highway after a car theft.  I didn’t find them as aimless as did some reviewers; the ski instructor (Heino Ferch) is rather energetic, virile, and helpful.  The ectomorphic farmer  character suffers from short term memory loss from an earlier military accident, and there is some astounding dialogue in which he explains how he still knows who he is despite the reality loss.  The characters seem drawn together in a world of mood and mystery, isolated from us, yet something we may not wake up from.


A film about Ordinary People, really ordinary, while a great screenwriting assignment, doesn’t sound that promising, except that the mountain setting becomes an overlord of the film itself. The scenery, shot in the old CinemaScope (rather than Panavision) process looks like it came from an Imax movie: the photography is clear, almost three-dimensional on many levels.  Technically, this obscure film is masterful.  This is the kind of movie-making I want to see every time, to be put in another world that looks as real as a dream.   


Run Lola Run (“Lola rennt”) (1998, Sony Pictures Classics, XFilme, dir. Tom Twyker, 80 min, R) was another famous manipulation film, from this director. Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to find 100000 DM that her boyfriend (Manni, Moritz Bleibtreu) lost to prevent a suicide. The film explores three scenarios in a daisy chain. I saw this film a couple months after being in Berlin (both sides) myself and all of the shots looked real.


Sliding Doors (1998, Miramax/Mirage, dir. Peter Hewitt, 99 min, R) was another exercise in parallel plot manipulation. A woman Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets fired from a public relations job and approaches the London Underground. She may or may not make the train as the doors close. The film explores two sequences, based on whether she gets on the train, and they gradually converge, revealing some sort of karmic truth. Much of the story involves boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) and ex girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Gerry is supposedly writing a novel but tends to slide into playing around with Lydia. Will Helen put her life back together in one or both versions? Maybe this is a bit of Heisenberg Uncertainty.


Blind Chance (“Przypadek”, 1981/1987, Kino, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski) is an earlier treatment of the “sliding doors” concept. A young medical student runs for a train. Three outcomes can happen. He makes the train, gets on, meets someone, and becomes instrumental in the Communist Party. Or he gets arrested, put into labor, and joins the resistance. Or he just misses it, meets a woman, married, practices middle class medicine, and is on a plane that explodes on takeoff. The movie shows disturbing shots of the injured after the crash, and he may or may not be one of them, according to chance. The director is concerned about the effect of chance on the outcome of our lives, as a moral matter. The government kept this movie from being released until 1987, and there is a lot of talk about censorship in the script. The film is also an example of the director’s interest in segmented films.  


Workshop Exercises (“Cwiczenia warsztatowe”, Kino, dir. Marcel Lozinski, 12 min) shows a filmmaker interviewing youth about life in Poland. Many are afraid to talk. Accompanies blind chance.   




Related reviews:  Memento


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