‘All These Sleepless Nights’ Is a Stylish Dream of Bored Youth

Pulse FIlms

All These Sleepless Nights is a film about beautiful, young people with no financial concerns and nothing to do but gaze into each others eyes, take club drugs and wonder at the perpetual twilight of their unscheduled lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The business of having nothing to do is often a lovely one. Yet it’s unclear whether such a film is really about being young, or whether it’s actually just about being rich.

To his credit, director Michal Marczak (Fuck for Forest) doesn’t seem entirely oblivious to this frustrating ambiguity that colors his newest feature. All These Sleepless Nights follows youthful Polish bons vivants Kris and Michal as they meander through an endless party landscape, briefly encountering a love triangle midway through the film that Marczak seems to find no more interesting than any of the mostly plotless raves that come before and after. Sometimes, though not too often, he gestures toward the newness of this generation in a country where this lifestyle would not have been conceivable before their birth. Sometimes he slips a melancholy thought into Kris’s frequent voiceover. Mostly he lets his characters dance.

This resistance to narrative is not tiresome so much as it is underdeveloped. All These Sleepless Nights is principally an exercise in style, as if the bored aristocrats of 19th century literature found themselves in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats. Yet there’s nothing similarly queer or wry about this particular landscape, let alone self-aware. For example, Kris and Michal almost exclusively wear white, a uniform of sorts for the always-twilight world that Marczak has placed them in. They look a bit like Mormon missionaries, and seem to be equally unaware of their own inchoate homoeroticism. At one point Kris’s voiceover suggests that we are all constantly acting, making “more spectacular versions” of ourselves. Yet there’s nothing transformational about the character arc of either Kris or his partner in party. It’s a gesture of self-awareness without any real cinematic or narrative evidence behind it.

The question of acting leads into inevitably the most interesting question raised by All These Sleepless Nights: In which ways is it nonfiction? Most of the Kris and Michal narrative seems pretty evidently scripted, if perhaps loosely. The documentary element comes from the world around them. Marczak follows them through real parties, meandering among a city of dancing extras. In some moments it feels right out of the ’60s, a vibe perhaps more akin to strung out Fellini than the French New Wave. Other times the errant Steadicam feel more resembles a glossy promo video for a circuit party.

If there’s one thing that really works, in spite of all this crepuscular style, it’s the editing. While the acting, cinematography and music are all about letting things go, the film is cut with a vengeance. Editor Dorota Wardeszkievicz, who has worked with Marczak on his prior features, never lets anything settle. Even the most meandering of shots feel cut short. It’s the only counterpoint to the narcotic apathy, and while it doesn’t quite turn All These Sleepless Nights into an Ulrich Seidl joint, it’s what sticks the best of these images into the memory. Its ideas don’t really stick out, but some of its mood may wander into your dreams.

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Daniel is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. His writing has appeared at Nonfics, The Film Experience, The Brooklyn Rail, Indiewire, and Dok.Revue.