Sleepless Nights, Meaningless Life?

in 16th New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw

by Anna Maria Osmólska-Metrak

Michal Marczak’s second feature (after Fuck for Forest, 2013), All These Sleepless Nights (Wszystkie nieprzespane noce), had its Polish premiere at the New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw. Previously, it has been shown in the international documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where Marczak was named best director. Whether it is a documentary though, would be hard to establish: it’s more of a hybrid between documentary and fiction, which follows Krzysiek (Krzysztof Baginski), an art school student, and a bunch of his friends, through the nightlife of contemporary Warsaw.

The film begins with quoting a memory bias called the Reminiscence Bump: it is a tendency for adults to have increased recollection ability for events from their adolescence and early adulthood. According to this mechanism, we tend to remember best the music we loved when we were young, the people we met, the parties we attended, even when nothing that ‘important’ happened at the time. The boredom and repetitiveness of city nightlife is summed up at one point by one of the party-goers, who says: ‘you always think something great will happen, and nothing ever really does’.

And so, even though we see an amazing collage of places (Warsaw hasn’t looked that great on screen since long time), lights and sounds, nothing really happens in the film, which shows an interminable series of nocturnal wanderings, parties, kisses and break-ups. The protagonists drink, smoke, dance and talk – mostly about their emotional life, about their feelings, their search for a certain ‘something’, which is never really defined. What they do during the day is never shown, nor do we ever learn where the money comes from for Krzysiek’s apartment right downtown, for his summer festival trips, or for all these drinks and drugs. Krzysiek and his buddies are, obviously, a bunch of privileged hipsters in the big city, but they are so natural in their behavior, and shown with such tenderness, that they are bound to arouse more compassion than irritation.

There might be a more ambitious film hidden somewhere inside: a film that would set itself the goal to diagnose the state of a generation (generation Y?) with no purpose in life, no true ambitions and no ‘real problems’. Yet maybe not: maybe the real charm of All These Sleepless Nights is its ‘unbearable lightness of being’, its total lack of pretence. It succeeds in capturing a moment in life, when one clumsily starts to construct one’s identity by searching for love, friendship and some sort of meaning. When there’s no true responsibility yet, when it’s OK to get wasted every weekend, it’s OK to break up with a girl only because ‘something is not right’ and when the strongest relationship a boy has is with his flat mate.

Probably it came as no surprise that All These Sleepless Nights won the Audience Award in Wroclaw. The Festival audience of New Horizons Film Festival consists mostly of young people from big cities, very often from Warsaw. Marczak is 34 years old, he studied in Los Angeles and in Warsaw, so in some way he paints the portrait of his own generation, named sometimes “kidults”. It doesn’t mean that everyone should necessary identify or empathize with the protagonists of his film, but there’s no doubt that the director has created a mirror into which young people can recognize themselves, their friends, their stories, their style of life, but also their expectations, doubts and fears, their constant state of indecision.

Edited by Christina Stojanova