Sleepless Night

잠 못 드는 밤

(2012/HD/65min/color)

This isn’t hugely dramatic viewing but somehow it lingers fondly in the memory "Having a child might be normal for most people but for me it wasn't."

Hyunsoo and Joohee in their 30s have been married for 2 years. Hyunsoo is working for a anchovy processing factory, and Joohee is a Yoga trainer. Their wedding anniversary is coming in a few days.

Since I met my love, got married, and decided to have a baby together, small ripples were formed in my everyday life. I wanted to talk about my present life and space around it. This is a diary of a young couple, a movie of their snap shots, and a story of their fear and determination.

2012 KOFIC Independent Film Post-Production Support Program

2012 KOFIC Diversity Films Distribution Support Program

13th Jeonju International Film Festival - Grand prize for Korean Film (2012, South Korea)

13th Jeonju International Film Festival - Audience Award (2012, South Korea)

66th Edinburgh International Film Festival - The Student Critics Award (2012, UK)

34th Festival des 3 Continents - Special Mention of Jury (2012, France)

Independent Film& Video Makers' Forum (2012, South Korea)

6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival : CinDi (2012, South Korea)

12th INDIE 2012 WORLD FILM FESTIVAL (2012, Brazil)

2nd Nara International Film Festival (2012, Japan)

31st Vancouver International Film Festival (2012, Canada)

25th Tokyo International Film Festival (2012, Japan)

13th San Diego Asian Film Festival (2012, USA)

7th The London Korean Film Festival (2012, UK)

27th Mar del Plata International Film Festival (2012, Argentina)

38th Seoul Independent Film Festival (2012, South Korea)

15th International Randevu Istanbul Film Festival (2012, Turkey)

MOMI(Museum of The Moving Image, NY)-First Look (2013, USA)

42nd International Film Festival Rottredam (2013, Netherlands)

11th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (2013, Ireland)

37th Hong Kong International Film Festival (2013, Hong Kong)

27th Festival International de Films de Fribourg (2013, Switzerland)

5th CPH:PIX Film Festival (2013, Denmark)

Freer& Sackler Gallery, Washington "2013 Korean Film Festival" (2013, USA)

7th OFF PLUS CAMERA International Festival of Independent Cinema (2013, Poland)

Korean Cultural Office, Australia "Cinema on the Park-Korean Film Night" (2013, Australia)

MoMA(The Museum of Modern Art, NY) (2013, USA)

11th Vladivostok International Film Festival (2013, Russia)

Tashkent International Film Forum (2013, Uzbekistan)

23rd Films From The South Festival (2013, Norway)

37th Sao Paulo International Film Festival (2013, Brazil)

7th Gyeongnam Independent Film Festival (2013, South Korea)

15th Geneva International Independent Film Festival (2014, Switzerland)

Korean title: 잠 못 드는 밤

English title: Sleepless Night

Original language title: Jam-mot deun-eun bam

Country of production: South Korea

Year of completion: 2012

Color or B&W: Color

Language: Korean

Running time: 65mins

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Written and directed by Jang Kun-jae

Cast: Kim Soo-hyeon, Kim Ju-ryoung

Executive producers: Jang Kun-jae, Kim Woo-ri

Cinematographer: Lee Byung-soo

Location sound: Park Song-yeol

Editors: Lee Yeon-jeong, Jang Kun-jae

Music: Kim Dong-wook

Production, distribution & international sales: MOCUSHURA

Gallery

Review / Interview

Of late, Korean Cinema has made for rather bleak viewing. Hushed up sexual violence has been very prevalent but politics, torture and much else besides have also found their way into these recent narratives. For this reason, among many others, I am particularly grateful for Jang Kun-jae's magnificent sophomore feature Sleepless Night. His new film, though not without its portrayal of injustice and hardship, is a film about happiness, or at least one loving couple's pursuit of it in modern day Seoul.

A married couple in their mid-30s are juggling their jobs (he is a factory worker, she a yoga instructor), schedules and obligations as they strive to find satisfaction in their lives. They go on bike rides at night, lounge around their modern Korea apartment, share a glass of beer or discuss whether they are ready to have a child throughout the course of a long, hot summer.

Originally conceived as a mid-length film, Jang's short feature (it is only 65 minutes long) is a fiercely personal portrait of its two leads' shared lives. Largely based on Jang's own life, though also featuring elements of the cast's personal experiences, Sleepless Night feels real in a way that would be impossible to fabricate: It pulsates with life. Outwardly simple and yet richly evocative, it achieves a balance of realism and poetry that touched me deeply, and continues to affect me long after I first saw a few months ago.

One thing that has frequently captivated me in Korean cinema is how, in some of its most inspired moments, it can capture calm, unassuming moments, both precious and pregnant with life. This essence, should I revisit it, could be described as 'meaningful stillness.' Both realistic and deliberate, it is a paradox, one uniquely suited to the artistic realm. These instances are frequently framed in the most banal fashion, comprise little or no action and may not even feature any characters. They are dramatic pauses that beckon you to breath in a narrative's preceding beats but more importantly to ruminate on their import in the context of a world we can recognize.

For Sleepless Night, Jang and his tiny cast and crew lived in close quarters for the duration of the film's short production. Eating meals and sleeping together in the director's apartment, which served as the main location of the film, they also shared their thoughts and worries. Their marriages, as well as the minutiae of their daily lives, became a part of the filmmaking process. I can only imagine, but it must have made for a very special experience for those involved, especially given the result on screen.

The film is exceedingly relatable and highly personal. The character's thoughts are almost never a mystery, despite frequently sparse dialogue. Much of this is down to the splendid performances of the two leads but it is also part of the fabric of the film. For me, these silences that dot the narrative are examples of 'meaningful stillness.' They feel important, as though a statement is being made: however nothing is forced upon us. Perhaps they merely exist, like fleeting moments that just happened to be caught on camera: but they feature no action. It could be that these lulls derive their meaning purely from the context afforded by prior scenes: yet they are not in the least bit contrived.

Part of the story focuses on the couple's discussions about whether or not they are ready to have a child. In one particularly earnest scene, they list out the pros and cons of becoming parents. They are in large part focusing on the negatives while also being very honest about their desire to remain free for just a little longer. In no rush to sign away their freedom, they are not quite ready to take this step, though perhaps some things are being left unsaid. Not long after, following a small incident, they change their minds and this sudden reversal feels perfectly natural. The unadulterated joy they exhibit as they goofily dance together in their kitchen is heart-warming. Though the gentle Bach piano piece that accompanies them on the soundtrack does quietly underscore the seriousness of the decision they are taking.

In a modern Korean society, which covets the trappings of a comfortable western lifestyle, it's easy to lose sight of what is really important. Sleepless Night's great charm boils down to the modesty of its search for joy in Seoul's urban jungle. Life is lived in the present moment, not in anticipation of better ones that lie in wait. I frequently forget this, so a beautiful and sweet reminder such as this is welcomed with open arms. It acts as a soothing antidote to the tribulations of a busy Seoul lifestyle.

Sleepless Night is a work told in the simplest terms. Poetic, richly evocative, and sporting a pair of sublimely naturalistic performances, it is a film about normal people and ordinary circumstances, yet it is electrifying. I am not married and children are probably a long way off but I can appreciate where these characters are coming from. I like them, I understand them, I feel like one of them, and, ultimately, I want the same thing they do: to be happy.

By Pierce Conran (February 14, 2013)

https://screenanarchy.com/2013/02/review-sleepless-night.html

A minor but nuanced account of a couple moving forward in their lives. Two years into their marriage, struggling to get by financially, with the wife a yoga/pilates teacher and the husband working long hours in a factory and expected to do overtime for nothing, filmmaker Jang Kun-jae captures the details of their lives to follow the potential cracks. Can the intimacy they share in scenes of eating, lovemaking and dancing be enough to cancel out the pressures from her pressing mother, from his boss’s unreasonable demands and from closeness that can turn into complacency?

Jang Kun-jae happily admits the autobiographical nature of his story, but if it works this lies in its naturalistic feel and thematic heft, in its capacity to use certain scenes that echo earlier ones, and objects for their metaphoric weight. There are a number of moments of eating, of working, of caressing that have a parallel sequence. It helps give us an accumulating intimacy with the characters whilst also indicating rhythmic repetition in the form. As for the metaphoric, the missing bike here isn’t a cumbersome plot device, more a quizzical symbol whose missing or finding changes nothing in the story but contains an undercurrent of meaning.

South Korean cinema may have a reputation for plot gymnastics and representational extremity (Oldboy and The Isle, for example), but there are quieter works out there too, like Poetry, Kim Ki-duk’s Spring Summer Autumn Winter... and Spring, and the gloriously horrible intimacies and inadequacies in Hong Sang-soo’s work. It is in this latter tradition Jang Kun-jae’s film modestly fits.

By Tony McKibbin (July 9, 2012)

https://film.list.co.uk/article/43275-sleepless-night/

Korean writer director Jang Kun-jae followed his 2009 debut, the gritty indie teen drama Eighteen, with Sleepless Night, another insightful offering that this time focused on the ups and downs of married life. Starring Kim Su-hyeon (Set Me Free) and Kim Ju-ryong (Texture of Skin), the film was much-praised by domestic critics following its 2012 premiere at Jeonju, and went onto enjoy a successful tour of festivals around the world, playing at Hong Kong, Rotterdam, Tokyo, Vancouver and other high profile events.

Kim Su Yeon and Kim Ju-ryong play Hyun Soo and Joo Hee, a husband and wife in their early thirties, enjoying what seems to be a blissfully happy marriage, their love and closeness only having grown since their wedding two years back. Despite their happiness the cracks gradually start to show, and financial pressure and the decision whether or not to have a child begin to take their toll.

If Sleepless Night sounds relatively plot-free, that’s because it is, the film basically sticking to following Hyun Soo and Joo Hee as they go about their daily lives, capturing their everyday interactions and conversations. There’s little in the way of artificial drama or anything over the top, and the film is very different to others from Korea dealing with the same themes, sticking to a gradual, patient exploration of its two central characters and the subtle changes in their relationship and bond. Partly based upon Jang Kun-jae’s own experiences, the film never feels anything less than genuine or believable, and what it might lack in the usual scenes of conflict and tears it more than makes up for in heartfelt and honest emotions, offering real insight and never shying away from harsh truths. While its slow pace and long stretches of meandering dialogue might make it a bit of a push for some viewers, the film is quietly involving and results in rich emotional rewards for those willing to forgo the tried and tested melodrama of the form.

Kim Su Yeon and Kim Ju-ryong play Hyun Soo and Joo Hee, a husband and wife in their early thirties, enjoying what seems to be a blissfully happy marriage, their love and closeness only having grown since their wedding two years back. Despite their happiness the cracks gradually start to show, and financial pressure and the decision whether or not to have a child begin to take their toll.

If Sleepless Night sounds relatively plot-free, that’s because it is, the film basically sticking to following Hyun Soo and Joo Hee as they go about their daily lives, capturing their everyday interactions and conversations. There’s little in the way of artificial drama or anything over the top, and the film is very different to others from Korea dealing with the same themes, sticking to a gradual, patient exploration of its two central characters and the subtle changes in their relationship and bond. Partly based upon Jang Kun-jae’s own experiences, the film never feels anything less than genuine or believable, and what it might lack in the usual scenes of conflict and tears it more than makes up for in heartfelt and honest emotions, offering real insight and never shying away from harsh truths. While its slow pace and long stretches of meandering dialogue might make it a bit of a push for some viewers, the film is quietly involving and results in rich emotional rewards for those willing to forgo the tried and tested melodrama of the form.

By James Mudge (11 November, 2015)

https://www.easternkicks.com/reviews/sleepless-night

Following his debut Eighteen's successful run on the international festival circuit in 2009, the highlight of which was a grand prize win as part of Vancouver's Tigers & Dragons section, Jang Kun-jae has proven that he is no fluke with his sophomore feature. Sleepless Night debuted in Jeonju where it picked a pair of prizes, including the top Korean film prize and audience award before hitting the road for what is likely to be a lengthy festival run. MKC was able to catch up Jang during the Busan Film Fest.

How do you feel about Sleepless Night's positive reception?

The public’s response is of course very important to me, especially as a director who did not have the opportunity to release my films in a commercial way. Therefore, the more people who enjoy my film in festivals, the better the film’s chance to become available for the general public.

As with my last film, I hope that the positive response will help for my next project. Hopefully we can find more financing and have the opportunity to cast better actors and actresses.

At 65 minutes, your new film is quite short. Was this a conscious decision?

Actually, the film was originally conceived as a 30-40 minute mid-length film spread over 7 or 8 shooting days because I didn’t have access to many funds nor did I have a very detailed shooting plan. The initial plan was to focus on my life, everyday worries, marriage and such, but following the discussions I had with the actors, it became more than that and I realized that the running time wouldn’t be sufficient. When we were filming I didn’t consider the length of the finished film but when it was finished we ended up with an enormous amount of footage. Through editing it naturally came down to 65 minutes.

Your main actors in Sleepless Night are wonderful, how did you elicit such natural performances from them?

The shots in the film are quite long but originally they were even longer. For instance a shot that appears as one minute may have originally been 3 minutes long. I wanted to contain the everyday aspect of their own live in the performances. The film was shot in my apartment and during the production all the staff lived, ate, slept and talked together. As we would finish one discussion we would decide to shoot one scene, so we more or less shot a scene per day. We shot for 22 days and coincidentally there are about that number of scenes in the film.

Could you explain the title of your film?

It was shot in the summer and during that time we were struggling with hot weather but also from our anxious thoughts as you can notice from the film. My film was shot differently from my previous works, which were all very well planned. Generally film should be well planned but this was the opposite. Pre-production occurred on top of the production, it was simultaneous. My own thoughts were reflected in the film. Having a child might be normal for most people but for me it wasn't. Originally, the title of the film was ‘Starry, Starry Night’ but the name ‘Sleepless Night’ was decided upon during the production.

Am I to understand that the ‘quitting’ and ‘post-dinner’ fight scenes were in fact dreams?

Yes, these were both dreams. You see, if you dream deeply, the quality of the sleep is typically not very good, so this also ties into the title.

Sleepless Night feels like a very personal film, how much of your own experiences informed the narrative?

When I was shooting, it was about my life but when I saw my film I realized that it was a combination of my thoughts and those of my staff and actors. The whole time there were only 6 of us, including myself and the cast. When we spoke to each other, we were all thinking about very similar things.

For example, one day, the main actress wasn’t feeling well so we decided not to shoot. We all decided to drink and the two actors were talking to each other about the scene where the couple are speaking to one another as they drink. So it was actually happening during their talk, without us filming, I thought it was great so I decided to shoot it. The whole conversation with her husband came from the actress' private thoughts. After that, they talked to each other on the bed as the husband reads a comic book and the wife lies down with her legs up on the wall. She talks about their parents and everything that she said was taken from her personal life.

After that I was more convinced to have a baby so I tried to have one with my wife, also a producer of the film, and now, fortunately, she is pregnant!

Congratulations!

Thank you.

How do you find working in the industry as an independent filmmaker?

Being an independent filmmaker is hard but it guarantees me freedom in my work, I don’t have to compromise for commercial reasons. You still need some money, otherwise I wouldn’t have made any film but I hope that I can keep taking risks and working as an independent filmmaker so that my freedom can be guaranteed.

Could you tell us a little about your next project?

I’m always thinking about my next project but I also never end up doing what I plan to. It was the same when I finished Eighteen but I’m always thinking about it. During the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival (CinDi), I was presenting my next project, which will be an adaptation of a Korean novel. The work is about two teenagers. Another possible project will be about the life of an artist.

Finally, what are your favorite Korean films?

I love Stateless Things by Kim Kyung-mook, he is my favorite director. He’s actually a friend and though his films are very different to mine, I think we influence each other.

By Pierce Conran (November 10, 2012)

http://www.modernkoreancinema.com/2012/11/interview-jang-kun-jae-talks-sleepless.html

After his debut, “Eighteen,” which evoked youthful impulses with electrifying authenticity, South Korean helmer Jang Kun-jae’s follow-up, “Sleepless Night,” initially seems as staid and uneventful as the marriage of the thirtysomethings he depicts. Yet “Night’s” unassuming brilliance lies in the lyricism of love itself, which it tenderly infuses into every precisely framed and edited shot of the most quotidian activities. Despite its thrift and brevity, this artfully spontaneous divertissement, which received fest awards at Edinburgh and Jeonju, deserves more critical attention.

Pic imperceptibly penetrates the cozy neighborhood of factory employee Hyun-soo (Kim Soo-hyun) and his yoga-instructor wife Joon-hee (Kim Joo-ryoung), building pleasurable momentum from their ups and downs (a birthday party, work hassles, speculation about having babies) that are universal yet deeply personal to the protags. Daydreams and nightmares suggest subconscious anxieties, revealing a rippling emotional current beneath the characters’ daily pleasantries. Thesps wear their roles like a second skin, sans makeup, just as the basic HD tech package re-creates the intimacy of a video diary. Excerpts from Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” imbue intimate moments with a serene, contemplative air.

By Maggie Lee (September 29, 2012)

https://variety.com/2012/film/reviews/sleepless-night-2-1117948447/