Inspired by a very personal loss on the part of the film’s director, the feature centers on a photographer (Katherine Waterston) who grapples with the consequences of her celebrity husband’s double life after he abruptly commits suicide. Returning to Brussels to pack up the flat she once shared with her husband, Waterston’s character stumbles upon a web of secrets, descending into Brussels’ underground scene to get to the bottom of her husband’s death.
“The biggest mystery in life is death, and when someone close to you dies, there’s always this sense of investigation, even if it’s someone who is elderly. Like, my grandmother died—who was she with? Who was the last person to talk to her?” Danluck reflected on the film’s themes in conversation with Deadline in Tribeca, where she appeared with stars Waterston and Michael Shannon. “You go through this cataloging of the hours and you’re trying to make sense of it, as if you could build a case that would ultimately then reverse the situation.”
As with the characters who inhabit Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, those at the center of State Like Sleep struggle with a sense of dislocation, being strangers in a strange land. In Danluck’s mind, this sense of isolation is intricately connected to the sensation of grief itself. “There’s this fish-out-of-water quality, traveling abroad, being away for work in a hotel room in a foreign place. You’re isolated in this bubble of your own reality and very much in a foreign place, and I think in the process of grieving, there’s an isolation that happens and a wall that goes up,” the director said. “The title of the movie is reflective of that experience, this kind of sleepwalking through reality.”
In conversation with Deadline, Shannon explained that he, too, has felt the isolation of weeks on the road, traveling through hotels as an actor. While this sense of identification was one way into his role, Shannon was also excited with State Like Sleep to break out of the mold of characters with which viewers have come to associate him.
“I hear a lot of times, people expect me to be a certain way, or they look at my work a certain way. ‘You’re always just such-and-so person,’ so whatever,” Shannon said. “I thought this guy was not what people would maybe normally, typically anticipate me doing.”
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with Danluck, Waterston and Shannon, click above.
The Deadline Studio at Tribeca is presented by Nespresso.