“No No Sleep” is another entry in Tsai Ming-liang’s “Walker”-series, in which he portrays a monk walking slowly and silent through various locations. This time the monk, who is always played by Lee Khang-Sheng (“Rebels of the Neon God” 1992), sets out for Tokyo and meets Masanobu Ando (“Kids Return” 1996, “Battle Royal” 2000) in a spa.
Let’s “Take a walk on the wild side”. The outline already gives out a promise. Whether you will take the patience to watch the film or not. There is not much movement in “No No Sleep”. Tsai Ming-liang rather manages to create a dynamic inside the singular frame. The static and suggestive compositions are undertaking the task of the usual storyteller. Although the plot is very shallow on the first sight, the director scatters certain, even sexual connotations into the relaxing and meditative mood.
Different from other entries of the Walker-series like “Journey to the West” (2014), the monk is not so much the center of attention. As he proceeds in slow motion, the surroundings are moving fast. Traffic, people, lights. As a contrast to the slowed down protagonist, the viewer’s eye are drawn to the dynamic environment that emits the stressful bustle of Tokyo. Literally, a city with no sleep.
With a runtime of more than 30 minutes, “No No Sleep” drags on a bit. It feels like the director wants to figure out how far he can go, with how much Zen-like nihilism he can get away with. But at this point, it depends on which occasion you watch this film. It definitely conveys a laid-back atmosphere and tells a story that is open for wild interpretation. The last shot for example, showing the monk in a capsule hotel after he encountered Masanobu Ando in the spa, creates the impression of isolation and suppressed feelings. Feelings that very well can be interpreted as symptoms of modern life in the big city. Accompanied by the strict silence of the actors, meaning, and explanation is up to the mind of the viewer.
“No No Sleep” and as well the whole Walker-series are challenging the audience. If you are up for a challenge, and not afraid of looking at one shot for 10 minutes straight, then brace yourself for Tsai Ming-liang’s adventure of slowness.