The Long Sleepers (2018)
16mm/HD, color and b/w, sound, 27:40, 2018
a film by Jenny Perlin
This experimental film takes a walk through an underground cavern exploring ancient legends and origins of Washington Irving's famous story Rip van Winkle and other subterranean tales. It is a preface to a forthcoming feature about people who live in underground spaces in the contemporary U.S.A.
“In the village the women and children stood in their doorways and stared at him as he passed. All were strangers to him. He noticed that some of them stroked their chins and laughed; and without thinking much about it, he put his hand to his own chin. What was his surprise to find that he had a beard more than a foot long!”
--from Peter Klaus the Goatherd, German folktale, collected by Johan Nachtigal and published in 1800.
The legends persist, they grow like trailing vines; they shape-shift to fit circumstance; they echo like answers to a centuries-long game of telephone--and even when they don’t make sense it doesn’t matter because no one remembers the questions anyway.
Since 2014 I have made four experimental films about “long sleeper narratives.” Long Sleepers are people who are outsiders in their society, who fall asleep in a cavern or mountainside and wake up 20, 50, or 100 years later.
The works I’ve done are in experimental documentary, essay, animation, drawing, and film-performance. In previous films I have explored the devastating environmental phenomena of sinkholes, the formation and development of caverns and cave tourism, mining mysteries from a novel by Jules Verne.
With this newest experimental documentary film, the plagiarized origin of the Rip van Winkle story and its transposition into early American legend.
This ongoing series of films gathers stories of figures like Washington Irving’s famous American character Rip van Winkle; those who fall asleep underground and wake up 20, 50, or hundreds of years later. When awake, these individuals can take on a range of roles in society. In narratives they usually function as prophets, fools, or refuseniks. These films have been exhibited widely in the gallery, museum, and theatrical context.
This film is a preface to the feature-length experimental documentary of the same name which will investigate 21st century "long sleepers," people who live in bunkers, missile silos, and other underground spaces in the United States in the year 2018.
* THE LONG SLEEPERS *