Director: Natalie Johns



Synopsis: A rich portrait of the famed composer and a film for these frenetic times; a meditative respite from the rush and chaos of the modern world, studying the universal experience of sleep that unites us all.


Directed by Emmy-nominated, award-winning director Natalie Johns, the film Sleep follows acclaimed composer and musician Max Richter – whose film credits include Shutter Island (2010), Mary Queen of Scots (2018), Ad Astra (2019) and HBO’s The Leftovers (2014-17) – and his creative partner, artist and BAFTA winning filmmaker Yulia Mahr, as they navigate an ambitious performance of his celebrated 8-hour opus Sleep at an open-air concert in Los Angeles. Director Natalie Johns weaves in Mahr’s personal archive and performance footage from Berlin, Sydney, and Paris to create a rich portrait of a shared artistic process, along with interview contributions that illuminate both the science and story behind the work.

Sleep the album was first released on Deutsche Grammophon as a digital download and on 11 December 2015 as an 8-CD/1-Blu-ray set. The disc serves as a concept album based around the neuroscience of sleep, hence its length of over eight hours. When it was presented by BBC Radio 3 on 15 September 2015, it became the longest continuous piece of music ever broadcast.

The film plunges deeply into the artist’s life and process, transcending the work to explore his legacy. Personal reflections from Richter himself, and visual archive material from his wife and long-term creative partner, Yulia Mahr – the co-architect of Sleep – help build this intimate portrait.

Sleep is a meditative respite from the rush and chaos of the modern world, studying the universal experience of sleep that unites us all. It explores the various tonal shifts that synch to the frequencies on which the human brain operates while we sleep.

Richter conferred with neuroscientist David Eagleman on the workings of the brain to ensure his music could leave an impression on its listeners while they snoozed, with each of the Suites designed to be experienced while in both conscious and unconscious states.

“Our lives are very the data-saturated now,” Richter said in a recent interview. “We’re always on our screens, and mostly we’re being sold stuff. It squeezes out a lot of richness of what we are.” He believes that a calm, relaxing, very long work like his, could act as a sort of protest song – a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world…a manifesto for a slower pace of existence.”

The glacially-paced movements slide in and out of focus throughout the concert inviting the audience to experience what Richter essentially considers a protest against our relentlessly ‘switched on’ lives. Sleep offers the unique opportunity to participate in this confrontation with our mechanized way of living, as we gain glimpses of sold out performances at such venues as the Sydney Opera House, Philharmonie de Paris, Grand Park in Los Angeles, New York City’s Spring Studios, London’s Barbican and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw – a testament to the work’s international relevance and acclaim.

In cinemas now

Images courtesy of: Dogwoof


A still from Max Richter’s Sleep by Natalie Johns, photo by Rahi Rezvani.
 Courtesy of Sundance Institute.