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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Edinburgh International Film Festival 2003

Mike Hodges


Dolan Cummings

22 years after Get Carter, director Mike Hodges has made another film with a very similar plot. Clive Owen plays the Michael Caine part, this time returning to London from the wilderness to discover that his younger brother has killed himself after being raped.

As a contemporary rape-revenge drama, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead invites comparison with Gaspar Noe's Irreversible. Both films emphasise that rape is a crime of violence, or defilement, rather than lust. In Irreversible, a woman is raped by a brutal pimp who is actually gay; in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, a straight man is raped by another straight man. And in both films, the rapist is given a speech to explain his crime: inevitably, this is utterly banal.

In fact, what is striking about I'll Sleep When I'm Dead in particular is its lack of psychological depth. This isn't necessarily a criticism. Shane Danielsen's insistence in the festival programme that the film is about 'the male fear of penetration' is unnecessarily pretentious, and if taken seriously would be like saying that Irreversible is about the neurosis of the French bourgeoisie. In fact, the horror is in the meaninglessness of the crime, the fact that it isn't personal; it isn't part of an elaborate plot.

The film doesn't quite have the urgency suggested by the title, and a few characters seem either unnecessary or stereotyped, but Clive Owen brings just the right combination of bewilderment and rage to his role.

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