After losing his wife and daughter, Edmond becomes lost to himself and depression. Spending most of his time thinking about and discussing death, his friend Kogi eventually recommends Edmond to a house the specializes in companionship. A brothel of sorts except guests are only allowed to sleep next to beautiful, young girls with the promise that the girls will never remember anything.
Vadim Glowna's "House of the Sleeping Beauties" should not be confused with Catherine Breillat's "The Sleeping Beauty", the 2011 Australian movie "Sleeping Beauty" or the other three movies that are also based on Yasunari Kawabata's novella (which makes five movies in total). Like Yasunari's story, "House of the Sleeping Beauties" is about Edmond, an elderly gentleman in his 60's, who visits a specialty house. Instead of engaging in sex with beautiful, young girls, the guests pay to sleep next to them. After losing his wife and daughter, Edmond drifts around aimlessly contemplating life, death and other sundries in a sever state of depression. That is until his friend Kogi recommends Edmond to a house that could help him with his problem.
At first I didn't know what to expect with this German adaptation of the story since I didn't really know much about the movie. It came as more of a recommendation through Amazon based on past purchases and I figured why not. After watching it, I was less than impressed with what was done with the movie. Off hand, I don't know if the problem lies directly with the source material but since I haven't read the original story nor did I know that's what the movie was based on until after it was over. I don't really consider that to be a factor of why the movie worked or rather why it didn't work.
"House of the Sleeping Beauties" felt and seemed so pointless -- little more than exploitation and eroticism disguised as philosophical arthouse drama. The movie and the story's goal, ultimately, is meant to be a look at life, death, love, sex, etc. Very typical subject matter in arthouse films but Vadima Glowna's movie doesn't explore the subjects any more so than what's been done before. A majority of the movie is often spent with Edmond circling the women laying in bed (kind of like a predator circling its prey) while he often spouts pseudo-intellectual diatribe about those exact subjects I mentioned before, or worse, sounding like bad poetry.
It becomes repetitive quickly and breaks down into a formula: Edmond moping about his day, talking with Kogi (usually about life, death, etc.), then heading to the brothel where he gets into a debate with the madam of what the house rules permits (He asks what he can do. She tells him no or that it's forbidden. He pushes it further. She becomes agitated. He backs off then follows the rules so he can sleep with the girls.), Edmond waxes further on about life, usually fondles/gropes the girls and then finally sleeps only to repeat the process the next day. Because it is so basic and procedural with the story and even goes so far as to have formulas within the main formula -- his repeated discussions with the madam -- it becomes insanely dull. Other than minor titillation brought on from the nudity of the women, "House of the Sleeping Beauties" has nothing to offer a viewer.
A person could find some value or some meaning within one of Edmond's speeches or the general idea of the movie since it is designed with that purpose. However, I think any seasoned viewer will find that the movie is so basic and explores those ideas so superficially that it feels like a shallow attempt at a meaningful drama. "House of the Sleeping Beauties" is the type of that is more of a stereotype of arthouse cinema. The kind of movie that folks would call pretentious and, for once, it would actually fit since "House of the Sleeping Beauties" certainly felt pretentious. The movie had an air of self-created importance when it's nothing more than a weak justification in exploitation.