ⓘ Sleeping Beauty (2011 film)

Sleeping Beauty (2011 film)

ⓘ Sleeping Beauty (2011 film)

Sleeping Beauty is a 2011 Australian erotic drama film that was written and directed by Julia Leigh. It is her debut as a director. The film stars Emily Browning as a young university student. She takes up a part-time high-paying job with a mysterious group that caters to rich men who like the company of nude sleeping young women. Lucy is required to sleep alongside paying customers and be absolutely submissive to their erotic desires, fulfilling their fantasies by voluntarily entering into physical unconsciousness.

The film is based on influences that include Leighs own dream experiences, and the novels The House of the Sleeping Beauties and Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Nobel laureates Yasunari Kawabata and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, respectively.

The film premiered in May at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival as the first Competition entry to be screened. It was the first Australian film In Competition at Cannes since Moulin Rouge! 2001. Sleeping Beauty was released in Australia on 23 June 2011. It premiered in US cinemas on 2 December 2011 on limited release. Overall critical reception of the film has been mixed, rising to some approval through June 2016, after circulation of the film on the festival circuit; audience reception, on the other hand, has been weak less than a third of a sample of tens of thousands approving.


1. Plot

Lucy Emily Browning is a promiscuous university student who works in an office in the daytime and at a restaurant in the evenings. She is occasionally a research subject at a science laboratory.

Lucy is paying tuition and rent by doing several jobs. She is caring for a sick relative, Birdmann Ewen Leslie who is very attracted to her. While she does not return his sexual interest, Lucy enjoys Birdmanns company, and in his presence is the only time she is shown smiling or laughing. An old joke between the two is that Birdmann frequently asked Lucy to marry him; Lucy always says no. Due to lack of money and Birdmanns bad health, Lucy makes a decision to look for another part-time job.

In response to a classified ad for yet another short-term job, Lucy meets Clara Rachael Blake, who runs a service that combines lingerie modelling and catering performed by young women at a black tie dinner party for mostly male clients. Clara assures her that the men are not allowed to touch the women sexually, and Lucy agrees to try it. Clara inspects Lucys body and names her "Sara" for the purpose of anonymity. At the dinner party, Lucy is the only girl dressed in white; the other women wear black lingerie that is much more revealing than Lucys costume.

After one other session as a serving girl, Lucy gets promoted. She receives a call from Claras assistant for a different request. Lucy is driven to a country mansion, where Clara offers Lucy a new role wherein she will be voluntarily sedated and sleep naked while male clients lie beside her. They are permitted to caress and cuddle her, but vaginal penetration is not allowed. After Lucy falls asleep, she lies unconscious on the bed and Clara leads in her client. After Clara reminds the man of the no-penetration rule, he strips and curls up beside Lucy.

After a few of these sessions, Lucy has enough money to move into a larger, more expensive apartment, where she lives alone. She receives a call from Birdmann, who has overdosed on painkillers. She goes to his house and finds him dying in his bed. Sobbing, she takes off her shirt and gets in bed with him, but he dies in her arms. At Birdmanns funeral, Lucy abruptly asks an old friend if he will marry her, in an echo of Birdmanns old playful banter. The friend, however, not understanding the reference, takes her seriously and, shocked, refuses her, citing a number of Lucys personal problems as his reasons.

At her next assignment with Clara, Lucy asks if she can see what happens during the sessions while she is asleep. Clara refuses, saying it will put her clients at risk of blackmail. Lucy decides to surreptitiously film her next encounter. The client is once again the first man, but this time, he also drinks the tea with a much larger dose of the sleeping drug.

The following morning, Clara comes in and checks the mans pulse, showing no surprise when he cannot be awakened. Clara tries to wake Lucy, who has overdosed as well, and is eventually able to revive her using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Lucy begins screaming when she sees the dead man in bed next to her.

The film ends with the scene captured by the hidden camera: the dead old man and the sleeping girl both lying peacefully together in bed.


2. Production

Writer and director Julia Leigh, primarily a novelist, said in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine that she initially wrote the film without the intention of directing it. In writing the script, Leigh drew from several literary inspirations, including Yasunari Kawabatas House of the Sleeping Beauties and Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as the eponymous fairytales by Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm, and the biblical story of an old King Solomon who had young virgins brought to him from all over his realm to sleep alongside him. She also noted the phenomenon of images of sleeping girls on some of the fetish websites. Kawabatas novel had been adapted in 2006 by German director Vadim Glowna, Das Haus der Schlafenden Schonen House of the Sleeping Beauties, but had been released to generally negative reviews.

The Sleeping Beauty script made the 2008 Black List of unproduced screenplays grabbing attention in Hollywood. In September 2009 the project was approved for funding from Screen Australia. In February 2010 it was announced that Emily Browning would play the lead role. Mia Wasikowska was originally cast as Lucy but she dropped out when offered the title role in the adaption of Jane Eyre.


2.1. Production Filming

Principal photography on the film began on 3 April 2010, at University of Sydney, Camperdown and downtown Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.