Friday, February 03, 2012

The Sandman: Grade A


The Sandman (2011)

Fabian Krüger, Irene Brügger, Beat Schlatter; Writer-Director Peter Luisi. (Swiss German, subtitled).

This is a strange, original, humorously surreal story about a man whose body gradually turns into sand. The premise is bizarre, reminiscent of a Kafka novel. Benno, a stamp collector (Kruger) works in a shop where the boss is annoyed at finding grains of sand on the counter. Then Benno discovers sand in his bed. He sweeps it away, thinking nothing of it. But then there is sand in his kitchen, in his shoes, everywhere, and he realizes the sand is coming from him.

He confides in the waitress (Brugger)who works in the coffee shop below his room, even though the two of them have an icy relationship because her loud singing practice in the evenings keeps him awake. She spurns him out of hatred, and anyway cannot understand his complaint, “I am losing sand!” He starts dreaming about her every night and is quite annoyed by that. He becomes desperate when he realizes that his body is wasting away as the amount of sand he gives off increases.

It might sound like a wacky one-idea story, but it isn’t. Various twists and turns kept me guessing throughout. At first I thought it was an existential idea, of the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” type, and maybe it is. Then it turns out that he loses more sand when he is being untruthful, so he embarks on a program of absolute honesty, as in the Jim Carrey movie, Liar, Liar. Okay, I thought, so it’s a Pinocchio story. But then another twist: anyone who smells the sand immediately falls asleep. (Some great lines here: “Smell my sand.” “No, I am not going to smell your sand!”) So, a bedtime “Sandman” story? But no, another twist develops, and then another and another. The film is endlessly creative in that way.

The cinematography is wonderful and the pictures are more and more shocking and surreal as the movie progresses. Inevitably, and rightly, Benno and “Sandra,” the girl in the coffee shop, come to a romantic understanding. It is extremely hard to write a non-cliche story with non-stereotyped characters, but this movie is an original.

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