With Sleep Furiously, director Gideon Koppel has created a moving film that chronicles how a small community in Wales is trying to hold onto its heritage, its way of life.
Koppel, whose parents both settled in the village, interviewed and filmed the citizens of Trefeurig to create scenes that at first seem disparate, but added together become a portrait of village life.
So many images help to illustrate how their agricultural way of life is on the wane:
- Farming machinery, pulling and wrapping bales of hay.
- Sheep shearing, and sheepdog trials.
- A sow with her piglets, while a local talks about how he loves to eat pig’s belly, “Should have said that quieter, eh?”
- Tons of sheep moving along hillside paths.
- The landscape blanketed in snow, sheep grazing, white on white.
There is as a great desire to preserve their cultural, as well as agricultural existence, in scenes such as:
- Children in school, singing in Welsh (the Welsh language is a major part of the film); music lessons with their teacher who plays piano and violin, the kids all playing and dancing, using different percussion instruments.
- An elderly woman preparing the church for a service, setting up the hymn books.
- The mobile library, which travels through the village, the man who runs it suggesting books, chatting with residents about the old customs of the area. The town’s people live in a world seemingly devoid of the lures of the internet and other current “necessities.” One woman requests an “idiot’s guide” to using computers from the mobile library van. He only has a book on Photoshop, but he makes a note of it for his next visit.
- A community meeting where residents talk about trying to preserve the community and avoid changing their school.
- A stuffed owl brought to a local woodworker to have its base adjusted.
- Four elderly men and the organist in church in the afternoon, singing a hymn together.
There is no narration, just villager conversation, but Koppel does include a quote, “It is only when I sense the end of things that I find the courage to speak,” followed by a series of images of old farm equipment up for auction and abandoned spaces.
The film runs 94 minutes, with a musical score by Aphex Twin. DVD extras include scene selection and an additional short film, Sketchbook for the Library Van, a B&W 50-minute film about the mobile library van, which inspired the feature-length film. This film includes interviews with community residents, young and old.
Sleep Furiously is a beautiful film. The Welsh countryside is extremely picturesque, with its rolling, rural landscape. Viewers will feel as if they have escaped to a place where the pace of life is much different from what most of us are used to. But it is also tragic to think that it is a snapshot of a way of life that is ending.