Sound Asleep: Don’t Take Insomnia Lying Down
The Set Up
Dean Peels is a self-help writer who can’t seem to help himself. Maybe with that name it was destined. His need for sleep permeates his waking life. Even his motivational books are peppered with accidental references – titles like Wake Up And Smell Your Success, Get Up and Take Control of Your Future, and Stop Dreaming – Start Winning. Dean’s inability to sleep has driven his girlfriend away and his social skills have been destroyed. He lives his life out of sync with the world, or at least in the wrong timezone. He never sees anyone else. But he hears them. Oh, he hears them alright! At least he thinks he does.
Tonight is the umpteenth time in a row that Dean is kept awake. But tonight Dean won’t take it lying down!
Over the course of one night, as he attempts to deal with each sound, from the ticking clock to the turmoil of a party upstairs and even his neighbours’ lovemaking, Dean’s frustrated methods get ever more extreme, bizarre, and destructive.
As Dean gets more exhausted and the sleep deprivation kicks in, things begin to go from natural to a little surreal, or at least hyper real. We sometimes slip into fantasy, and Dean’s bed always seems further and further out of his reach.
The sound of the film is the sound Dean hears, and stunning sound design keeps us inside Dean’s confused head. The noises that keep him awake are warped, twisted, exaggerated, coming in through the walls, and fighting against the lullaby that dreamily calls Dean back to bed. There is no dialogue in Sound Asleep; Dean has no one to talk to, but as he responds to noises, this is far from a silent film.
It’s a brilliantly physical performance that will bring Dean to life. Dean is a mixture of exhausted, confused and frustrated, but he’s not stupid. He deals with his problems in ingenious ways, but ways that just seem to backfire! The performance is very physical comedy, but grounded just a little more in reality than in slapstick. Dean has a hint of Buster Keaton and a tiny pinch of Mr Bean, with lots of charisma, pathos, and some brilliantly sharp facial expressions. But unlike Mr Bean or the silent comedy heroes, Dean is a much more real, human character, just trying to get some sleep.
This scene in The Artist makes brilliant use of Sound Design. The warped, exagerated sounds have a real impact in this otherwise silent comedy.
The first half of this scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail is another great use of surprising, confusing sound.