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directed by Daniel Mattiasson

In a blurred, confusing overlap between reality and dream, consciousness and unconsciousness, the experimental short Somnolence manages to deeply engage the viewer. The aesthetic cinematography, together with the smooth, yet haunting score, serve as great assets to a film that delves into human consciousness.

Eric, the character that binds all elements together, drifts in and out of a dream state. When dreaming, he finds himself together with Emma, a woman whose role in his life becomes more and more obvious as the plot unfolds. When awake, he discovers himself in a room with his father, taking cover against an imminent storm.

For the most part, the scenes with Emma blur the distinction between reality and dream, memory and imagination. Similarly, the dialogue between Eric and his father contributes to an already confusing narrative. The more Eric roams across dreams and sceneries, the more disoriented he is. Gradually, the two worlds start to interact more and more closely with each other. As this happens, the borderlines between dream and reality are most blurred and Eric’s consciousness is slowly putting the pieces together.

The filmmaker Daniel Mattiasson has succeeded in compiling a powerful, sophisticated short that explores human consciousness in a very elaborate and aesthetic way. The plot is well-balanced and dynamic and the narrative mystery gets solved gradually. The whole process Eric is going through, as well as the abrupt disconnection from the dream-like state, are a strong statement in favour of the intricacy of consciousness. Moreover, the buildup of tension and confusion leads to a gratifying, eye-opening closure.

The generally cold, blue-toned picture is a tasteful visual choice. Together with the narrow-focused shots, the short’s overall visuals generate a unique atmosphere that both confuses and lures. Ultimately, the cinematography contributes to blurring the frontiers between reality and dream. In terms of sound design, the original score of the short adds to the general emotion-filled atmosphere and instills dramatism on its own.

In the end, Somnolence is a reminder that film is a permissive medium for experimenting with layers of consciousness. Daniel Mattiasson’s daring experimental short digs deep into the meaning of being conscious and delves into altered levels of consciousness. The film’s homogeneity and innovation in dealing with a complex subject make for an outstanding debut and can only anticipate great future works from Daniel Mattiasson.

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