Starring Sean Biggerstaff and Emilia Fox.
Synopsis (from IMDB):
When art student Ben Willis dumps his girlfriend Suzy, he develops insomnia after finding out how quickly she moved on. To pass the long hours of the night, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own ‘art’ in dealing with the boredom of an eight-hour-shift. Ben’s art is that he imagines himself stopping time. This way, he can appreciate the artistic beauty of the frozen world and the people inside it – especially Sharon, the quiet checkout girl, who perhaps holds the answer to solving the problem of Ben’s insomnia.
I subscribe to NetFlix instant and it is through their recommendation that I happened upon this quirky, independent British film. It reminded me that despite how sexualized American culture is/may seem, we do have puritan roots compared to Europe. This film is filled with nudity of all kinds, some that would make an American film NC-17. At first it shocked me a little, but I do think that it served a purpose, as well as could provoke a discussion that perhaps the religious and secular shy away from, and I will delve into that more later. I just wanted to be upfront about the content of this movie since I’ve noticed the promotional materials geared to Americans tend to neglect it (I was surprised myself).
This film started as an 18 minute short film. Due to it’s critical acclaim and Oscar nod, the writer and director, Sean Ellis, turned it into a full length movie. This film is an exploration of how the main character, Ben Willis, views the world. Because he is an insomniac and an artist the whole quality of the film is dreamlike. It’s actually quite beautiful and some of the shots really capture the art of film, as opposed to just its story telling ability.
In fact, beauty is a central theme of the entire film. Ben Willis is attending art school in the hopes of becoming a painter. It is clear that he is enamored with the female form and women are his muse.
Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it ~ Confucius
There is a real juxtaposition between his wonderment, how he revers women and the beauty of their bodies, and how the rest of the males in the film do. His male coworkers are juvenile and look at porn and hire strippers. In return they do not get very far in relationships, since the women can see the vileness and crassness they exhibit.
Ben, on the other hand, is different. In the film he has the ability to stop time, something I have always wanted. It is his way of dealing with boredom and monotony. At first, when he does so, he looks at all the women. He undresses them. This is a really challenging part of the film for me, being a woman and thinking about how unwillingly exposed I would be in that situation, completely unaware of what Ben was doing. However, I think it is a true metaphor for what men (and women!) do to each other in our vain imagination. How frequently have people talked of “undressing with the eyes”?
ALAS! ALAS! O LOVERS OF WORLDLY DESIRE! Even as the swiftness of lightning ye have passed by the Beloved One, and have set your hearts on satanic fancies. Ye bow the knee before your vain imagining, and call it truth. Ye turn your eyes towards the thorn, and name it a flower. Not a pure breath have ye breathed, nor hath the breeze of detachment been wafted from the meadows of your hearts. Ye have cast to the winds the loving counsels of the Beloved and have effaced them utterly from the tablet of your hearts, and even as the beasts of the field, ye move and have your being within the pastures of desire and passion. ~
I think Ben’s undressing though is less sexual, and more focused on the Eve-like true beauty of women (at least I hope so ). Ben was sexualized at a young age when he and his best friend found his father’s stash of dirty magazines. Through the film it is clear how much of an effect that had on both him and his best friend (who pays for strippers and chases women to no avail). I think this also speaks to the taboo on discussing sexual topics, since these children discovered all this on their own, without any parental guidance. These topics are hard to talk about, especially in religious households that value chastity, but not talking about it does not mean that children will not be exposed. I do not have an answer as to what is the best thing to do, but I do think “ostrich syndrome” doesn’t help.
Speaking of chastity, Ben’s budding relationship with Sharon, and his fascination with her is incredibly chaste in comparison. All his drawings of her are of her face and eyes, and he sees her beauty through her expressions, her dreams, and her inherent nobility. She is different than the other hooligans working the night shift. She is learning Spanish and wants to travel the world. He respects her and is enamored by her, and when is given the opportunity to kiss her merely pecks her on the cheek. It is their first kiss (again pretty chaste, not the tongue filled make out kisses we are used to in Hollywood) that breaks the spell of his insomnia.
For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover’s heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. ~
Unfortunately when Ben takes Sharon to a party, his ex is there. She corners him and kisses him, and Sharon sees, though she turns to run before seeing him pushing his ex away and rejecting him. Ben pauses time, but he cannot rewind it. He knows the hurt he has caused and wants to stay in this moment as long as he can before Sharon runs away and cries. He knows how important trustworthiness, fidelity, and respect are and in that moment he lost them.
The ending is beautiful, and while I have already given so much away, I will save that. If you end up watching the film, Ben’s character shines through with his consideration, fortitude, and love in the final scenes.
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross