Sleepwalk
Sara Driver / USA / 1986 / 78 minutes

As part of an event celebrating the work of New York-based photographer Nan Goldin, this week the Barbican screened a number of films which Goldin worked on, including You Are Not I and Sleepwalk.

You Are Not I, originally an adapted from a 1948 Paul Bowles short story, follows a woman who escapes from an asylum and arrives at her sister’s house, before staff from the asylum arrive and mistakenly drag her sister away instead of her. The film forms part of the No Wave tradition of cinema, which emphasised texture and mood above other filmmaking concerns.

Sleepwalk tells the story of a young woman asked to translate a rare Chinese manuscript, after which the film descends into surreal violence and supernatural occurrences.

Both films star Suzanne Fletcher, whose intense gaze and hooked nose make her a unique and striking on-screen presence. Both are directed and partly written by Sara Driver, a filmmaker and key player in the lower Manhattan independent film scene of the 1970s and 1980s.

Both leave the viewer with far more questions than answers, alongside the clear sense that plot is secondary to the atmosphere each film strives to create. The result is that these films seem like historical artefacts, emblems of a unique and creative period in filmmaking and worthy of preservation, but perhaps not entirely suited to today’s audiences.