THE SLEEPER approaches the biographies of two women whose personalities were forcibly hidden behind their roles as wives and homemakers. They remained invisible until they themselves became the aggressors.
Two newspaper articles, ten years apart, two different women, the same wording. In 2001 Göttinger Zeitung wrote that Margit (69) had lived a secluded life as an inconspicuous woman. In 2011 Hamburger Abendblatt stated that Irina (65) had lived in seclusion, a non-descript woman. Up to the moment of their appearance between these newspaper lines, both women were invisible, forcefully concealed by their roles as wives and homemakers. Only for a brief moment did they claim visibility. Through acts of violence. THE SLEEPER revolves around the time before these acts took place.
Idea/Script/Director Alex Gerbaulet
Co-Directors Mirko Winkel, Tim Schramm
Assistant Director/Photographs Ines Meier
Director of Photography Jenny Lou Ziegel
Sound Tom Schön
Editor Philip Scheffner
Sibylle Dordel, Alex Gerbaulet, Susanne Sachsse
Production Caroline Kirberg
Produced by pong film
Research funded by
Stader Stiftung für Kultur und Geschichte
Production funded by
Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Contact Production pong
World Premiere: Berlinale Forum Expanded 2018
International Premiere: DocLisboa 2018
Other Festivals 2018-19 (selection):
- EMAF - European Media Art Festival Osnabrück
- International Short Film Festival Hamburg
- Underdox Filmfestival München
- dokumentART Neubrandenburg
- Braunschweig International Film Festival
- KFFK - Kurz Film Festival Köln
- Kasseler Dokumentarfilm und Video Fest
- interfilm Festival Berlin
- Internationale Kurzfilmwoche Regensburg
- Nonfiktionale Bad Aibling
- achtung berlin - new berlin film award
- Vienna Shorts Festival (Spotlight Alex Gerbaulet)
- Huesca International Film Festival
Director | statement by Alex Gerbaulet
Some stories find you and not vice versa. That’s what happened when I first read about Irina S. on March 9, 2011: Irina (65) Dismembers Husband. Her crime reminded me of a dream my grandmother once shared with me in the form of a confession. In her dream she killed her husband — my grandfather — and fed his body to the pigs. Later, at the traditional country feast celebrated on the occasion of slaughtering animals, she had a break down and hindered the butcher from killing her husband whom she now recognized in the pig.
More than once my grandmother wished for death to end her hapless marriage. Nonetheless, she never found happiness after my grandfather’s passing. When I think of Irina S., I also think of my grandmother. I imagine that the two women meet and come to a different ending for their stories in the course of their exchange. Both Irina S. and my grandmother were invisible women for long periods of their lives. Invisible because the people around them — and broadly speaking society — stopped perceiving them as personalities. I, too, can hardly perceive them. Like ghosts they only become visible as negative figures through the things I learn about them — always conveyed by other people. I call them sleepers because the term also denotes agents and terrorists. Self-denial and pain as destructive forces as well as potential to reinvent oneself. The word furthermore implies that they are not only victims but also aggressors.
For my approach to Irina S. as a perpetrator I was inspired, among others, by the books of Elfriede Czurda; particularly her novel The Sleeper about a woman who kills and dismembers her lover in order to have him forever ‘close’ to her. This book is not a horror story but an intense study of voicelessness and failure in maintaining normative gender roles.
Co-Director | Statement by Mirko Winkel
The incomprehensiveness of Irina S.’s crime sparks people’s imagination. Everybody tries to find an explanation for what she did and in doing so constructs their own truth in which fact and fiction lie close together. When the people involved talked about the case, they predominantly spoke about their attitudes towards it and thus about themselves. Hence, Irina S. also interests me as a character who doesn’t speak for herself but is narrated through others. I want to find a dramaturgic form that exposes both this urge to explain and the gaps in people’s own moral entanglements.
Country: Germany 2018
Length: 16:30 minutes
Format: 2K DCP, proRes mov, h264 mp4 | 16:9, 25 fps, colour | 5.1 & stereo
Language: German with English subtitles