Sleepy Haven (15 min 1993) is a long daydream of a film, comprised of a blend of home movie inserts and found footage. Fueled by Dirk Schaefer’s aching string sample, Sleepy Haven utilizes the fade to mime a boat’s rocking passage, opening and closing successive passages with an ebbing flow of light. It is a somnambulist’s reverie, replete with a muscled iconography of sleepy sailors, their masculine fraternity lying in repose. Their countenance is galvanized by the filmmaker’s bathtub processing, imparting to the emulsion’s surface a seething, crackling skin, converting the film’s transport into a vast teeming ground. Its mottled, fissured surfaces resemble nothing so much as a body, its solarized apertures imparting a hallucinatory beauty which threatens always to break apart entirely, the skin of its material support pitilessly stretched across their fantastical recline. Begun with a careful emission of nautical details, moments of rigging, masts and mooring give way to hammocked sailors cribbed from Eisenstein’s Potemkin, their benetted forms conjuring a frankly phallic iconography. A montage of sleepers follow, their burgeoning physiques ample demonstration that these are mid-labor idylls, moments retired from the compulsive motor of the everyday. Asleep, the body offers itself up to the gaze of its beholder, the film’s daydream structure suggesting that their minds are elsewhere, drifted far from these emptied tissues and ligaments, the better to offer themselves as vehicles of fantasy and projection. It is in the very absence of their activity that they may be reconfigured in Müller’s homo-erotic reveries, these sleepers granted a common dream of fraternity.
As the camera browses over another nautical hulk, the high contrast of its rephotography serves to deepen each muscular contour, re-marking the body as a succession of plates, a geography of parts. Interleaved with his torso are recurrent meditations of another order, a deep fissure in rock which is explored and then pried apart by a pair of probing hands. Müller’s insistent intercutting makes it appear as if the man’s chest has been entered, this fantasy object now made to reveal its interior longings. Müller then inserts himself into the fray via re-photography, shooting a tightrope walker off his TV screen while he plants his feet against the glass. Onscreen a man struggles for his footing as he tiptoes over a torrential waterfall, any slip portending certain death. Müller’s insertion underscores his own stake in all this, he too is trying to keep his footing, but the deadly currents which swarm beneath belong to a world of images, not of geography. His agon throughout is with these phantoms of desire, and the escape they denote, the lure of going “to sea”, of abandoning himself to the dissolute recline of his fantasies. The long dream of the image world, depicted here as a reverie in stasis, a ‘sleepy haven’, is both conjured and deconstructed, made to reveal the stress fractures which result when the aims of everyday life are made to rub up against the dream factory. —mikehoolboom.com
Matthias Müller (alternative spelling Matthias Mueller) (born 1961) is a German experimental filmmaker and curator, often working in the field of found footage films. From 1994 to 1997 he worked as Guest Professor at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main (Germany), and from 1998 to 1999 at the Dortmund Fachhochschule. Since 2003 he is Professor for Experimental Film at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM), Cologne, Germany. For his films he has received numerous awards from many international festivals, including the American Federation of Arts Experimental Film Award in 1988, the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1996, the main award at the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in 1999, the Ken Burns “Best of the Festival“ Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 2003, and the German Short Film Prize for Animation in 2006. —Wikipedia