GERMAN CINEMA NOW! – Sleep (Schlaf) [Online]

Screen this title on demand
Feb. 24 at 5pm to Feb. 25 at 5pm PST

Sliding scale admission: $0–25.

Please pay what you can; proceeds support Northwest Film Forum during our closure! This film is only available to viewers in the US.

Image courtesy of Salzgeber.



Northwest Film Forum is SCREENING ONLINE! NWFF’s physical space is temporarily closed in light of public health concerns around COVID-19, but community, dialogue, and education through media arts WILL persist.

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Michael Venus
1h 42m


The monthly film series GERMAN CINEMA NOW! is curated by Goethe Pop Up Seattle. This year, the series explores themes of disruption and continuity to inspire public dialogue about the ways in which the past shapes our moment and can inform a radically different future.

About the film:

“Am I awake?” What should be a clear-cut yes/no question becomes terrifyingly slippery in filmmaker Michael Venus´ debut feature, a cerebral psychological horror-thriller with echoes of Mulholland Drive, Suspiria, The Shining, and Lars von Trier´s Zentropa. Flight attendant Marlene (Sandra Hüller, Toni Erdmann) is tormented by nightmares and sleep panic, and when she finds an item in an in-flight magazine advertising the Sonnenhügel, a country inn in scenic Stainbach that exactly matches the setting of her recurrent dreams (and her obsessive drawings of them), she can´t resist sneaking off and checking herself in. The next day, her devoted adult daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof, in a breakout performance) gets word from the local hospital that Marlene has destroyed her hotel room, and had a mysterious episode that put her in a state of post-traumatic stupor. Mona comes to the town to investigate, staying at the Sonnenhügel and beginning a series of weird encounters with the townsfolk, nested dreams from which she can´t seem to wake up, and unwelcome visits from what appears to be a spectral boar. As she learns more about Stainbach, she finds that the Sonnenhügel and its friendly/creepy owners are implicated in Germany´s wartime history, its aftermath, and her own family story in terrifying, violent ways. 

Director Venus intended this film to be the “antithesis” of the nostalgic German Heimatfilm, and with its jump-scares, committed performances, and chilling atmospherics, Sleep presents a complex vision of what happens when a culture tries to ignore the horrors of its past. (Martin Schwartz)

Sleep will intrigue genre fans who favour the cerebral over the visceral…Sleep is a challenging tale that constantly feels as it if it slipping from your grasp. It does ultimately add up and make sense. An impressive, restrained Gro Swantje Kohlhof carries the viewer through all the shifts in gear and lurches towards the unfathomable, including the recurring presence of a hefty wild boar. Her unflappable Mona becomes the embodiment of someone determined to keep calm and carry on as she ventures further down the rabbit hole of her family history.” – Allan Hunter, Screen Daily

“This tightly scripted German chiller uses folklore and fairy-tale imagery in deeply unsettling ways to confront the ghosts of the past.” – Katherine McLaughlin, Through the Trees

About the filmmaker:

Born in Jena, Germany, in 1976, Michael Venus took a degree in visual communication at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. He then worked as a producer at the KiKA children’s TV channel and studied directing at Hamburg Media School. His short graduation film, Roentgen, won numerous awards and was followed by further award-winning film work, commercials and music videos. He has co-written a number of screenplays including Cowboy und Indianer (working title, with Karen Köhler), which was nominated for a 2019 German Screenplay Award. Sleep is his debut feature film.

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