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Review: The Somnambulists

Though the Somnambulists is not a documentary in the traditional sense it is well worth a review on this site. The film consists of 15 portrait shots, intense views of men and women who each played a role in Iraq during the war. 

The gripping stories from the frontline in Basra are relayed to us by actors in the form of simple monologues. Filmmaker Richard Jobson based his work on a series of photographs by Joanna Kane and, like her work, he filmed against a black background. This technique ensures the words do all the work and is meant to create a sense of the afterlife, in which, in Jobson’s view, there is nothing but total darkness.

Created as a response to a collective apathy to the war in Iraq the message is strong; we should not have been there in the capacity we found ourselves to be in.

This message is of course the message of the film maker, but who better to say it is true than the people who were there?

The interviewees are regular soldiers, young and inexperienced; a bomb disposal expert, medics and a commanding officer. They were no heroes but ordinary people who now have one thing in common; they suffer from trauma. This is where the name comes from, meaning the sleepwalkers; a trade common in those who suffer from extreme trauma.

Between these semi-documentary portraits are poetic fragments, glimpses of the lives these people left behind or might have had – perhaps their dreams.

Listen here to Jobson’s motivation on why he made the film and chose the ‘hyperstylised’ look he went for in an interview with Premiere Scene:


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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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