Synopsis: Art school classmates Christopher and Michal, on the precipice of their own coming of age, restlessly roam their city’s streets in search of living forever inside the beautiful moment. (Source)
Michal Marczak’s All These Sleepless Nights is an experience first and foremost, a documentary that blends blinding realism with cinematic heft. There are no talking heads, infographics or stretches of exposition, but instead an endless succession of light and fury that can only be classified as youth gone wild. Marczak’s film dares to push what a documentary can and should be, allowing the rapture and abandon of his young subjects to lead the way towards fleeting moments of connection which vanish with the night sky. Looking to the Nouvelle Vague as his spirit guide, Marczak navigates parties, love, lust and friendship, capturing the transience of youth, but also its excess through a pulsing soundtrack and electric energy.
The film kicks off with a beautiful image, fireworks erupting above a misty Warsaw like neurons working overtime to feed a restless spirit. It’s here where Marczak’s begins our journey, following art students Kris and Michal over the span of two years as they push themselves to feel something, anything, amidst a world that’s used to being numb. After Kris breaks up with his girlfriend, he’s devastated, but also welcomes a life he doesn’t recognize, throwing himself into parties and dancing his cares away with his best friend. Things fluctuate during our extended stay with the two friends, they both fall in love with the same girl, then out of touch, and through it all, we view lives lived to the brink, never looking back, but always dancing towards that next rush.
Just like in real life, Marczak’s film is loose on narrative, allowing the film’s journal-esque scenes to play out like memories being relived via stream of consciousness. Scenes abruptly start and stop as an electronic beats fades in and out. Time moves forwards at the blink of an eye, yet the constant hunger and thirst for affection from Kris and Michal never change, even if their surroundings are constantly evolving. As we glean these two lives swirling into oblivion, Marczak splices in ruminations of love lost, friendships cherished and life folding in on itself, painting a larger picture of how only time can make sense of what our finite perspective can only dream of. You can come for the relentless mix of euro electro beats, french pop or impromptu dance numbers and be satisfied, but existential voiceovers and stray conversations prove that there’s much more going on beneath the surface.
Luckily, Marczak has a a trio of powerhouse subjects, each opening up to the camera in ways that can’t be faked. Since it’s impossible to tell fiction from reality, a truth emerges from the sincerity of the film’s leads, who may or may not be acting. Kris is the anchor, a bright light of ambition, but also impulse and tenderness. At one point, he’s jumping across cop cars, setting a chain of alarms off, and at another, he’s dressed as a bunny, commandeering a patch of grass at a park to compliment strangers via a karaoke machine. Michal exhibits strength through stoicism. A faithful companion who’s keen to those around him. The boys’ friend, Eva, acts as the wildcard, holding down the film’s midsection by commanding their attention. She has a delicate and complex relationship with both Michal and Kris at different times, adding a poignancy to everything.
All These Sleepless Nights is as vibrant as they come, a reminder of the things that are lost when we close our eyes for too long. This definitely won’t be for everyone, especially those who have an aversion to thumping beats and flashing lights, but what Marczak captures is truly special, taking command of the ephemera of youth and what it can teach us as we get older.
Beginning a one-week run at Los Angeles’ Nuart Theatre, April 7. Director Michal Marczak will be on hand for Q&As at the April 7th and 8th 7:30 showings, with intros for the 9:50 shows.