“Sleeping beauty” is probably the most disturbing film I’ve seen in a while and this is not only because it’s a nudity-heavy, cruel film with a Disney title. The film is about an unbelievable fair skinned student, who is desperate enough to earn money to take t on a job that involves being a waitress in lingerie, serving elderly men their exclusive dinner. Later she is willingly drugged to sleep while elderly men can do whatever they want to her, except from actually having sex with her. Towards the end she decides to find out what happens during her sleep…
Having read the reviews I knew that I was about to watch a psychological exhausting and voyeristic film but I didn’t expect that I would sit in my cinema chair scrunching and feeling sick in view of the cruelty on screen. First I had to think of Freud, who claimed that women are not capable of sexual feelings and can only be passive during sex. Sleeping beauty would then be the peak of this thought because she is not only not active, she is not even conscious of what’s happening to her. The film evolves around the (male?) wish to control other people and essentially that’s what these men pay for: to get sexually aroused by/with an actual woman without facing (the embarrassment) of human interaction. There’s of course also a chore element of prostitution: old, rich men, who think they can do and have anything because of their wealth.
It’s almost unbearable to watch this beautiful girl being abused, being completely at the men’s mercy. Lucy is a weird character, the audience never really gets to know her and understand her decision to continue working in this job. Apart from her job as a sleeping prostitute she also works as test person in a laboratory, once again selling her body to earn money, which enforces the impression about a lack of self-worth. She seems will-less and passive even when she is conscious. Only at the end when she makes an effort to find out what is done to her she takes some kind of control over her life, awakening to something she and the viewer probably expected the least. It’s hard to get a grip on the ending or to even remotely understand it.
It’s definitely not a film for the faint-hearted, but it’s also not really a very erotic film, despite the nudity scenes. The australian actress Emily Browning expresses a very cold beauty that stands in contrast to the ugliness of the plot. Any censored Hollywood film is probably more pornographic than this one.