Richard Jobson’s The Somnambulists is for the most part powerful and moving insight into the experiences of British military personnel serving in Iraq.
The film uses a succession of testimonies told against a black backdrop to tell the stark realities of life on the front line of a war many back home don’t support.
The writing and performance of these monologues is superb but there are too many of them – in all about 15 – and the absence of variety renders them repetitive and undermines the film’s impact.
The only break from the testimonies comes from flashbacks to the loved ones back home. The result is a deeply uncomfortable sense of voyeurism.
After the first hour the film’s relentlessly negative tone starts to feel like an endurance test and by the end of the 96 minutes you’ll be praying for it to end.
Instead of contemplating on the truth behind the stories, I found myself leaving the screening simply grateful that the experience was over.
This is a great shame because the film has a powerful and important message which deserves to be told and because individually the testimonies are wonderfully performed.
An unfortunate example of less being more.
The Somnambulists is screening as part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff for booking details