A beautiful testament to what one of the most famous J-Horror directors, Hideo Nakata, can do outside of horror, Sleeping Bride is a fairytale for set in grim reality.
Adapted from the manga of Osamu Tetzuka, which in turn was drawn from the fable of Sleeping Beauty, this short but powerful film is a triumph to Nakata’s work and is a wonder to watch and enjoy.
We follow a young hospital patient Yoichi and are introduced, through his night-time wanderings, to a girl, Yumi, who has been in a coma since birth.
Inspired by a book of the story Sleeping Beauty that he discovers in the library, the boy returns day after day, planting a soft kiss on her lips, whispering ‘I’m a prince, wake up!’, until the day comes that he has recovered and must leave the hospital.
The next part of the story joins Yoichi as a mature schoolboy and, thanks to an anniversary documentary on Yumi’s birth, his memory is jolted about her plight.
So he returns to kiss her one last time and, in true romance style, she awakens, inciting the two to embark on a short but passionate journey.
Although Sleeping Bride was not the commercial success like many of his other films, Nakata nevertheless presents what could be seen as a typical romance of boy meets girl, but thanks to beautifully crafted visuals and a soundtrack to match, what we actually receive is a unique and stunning story of undying love and commitment.
But don’t let the overly-romantic notion put you off, as this film also contains some dark subject matter, which without giving too much away, forms a hard light to be cast over an already sorrowful story.
Like some of Nakata’s horror works, Sleeping Bride does have a slight supernatural edge to it, as the girl of the piece is born amidst a terrible plane crash of which she is the only survivor. Subsequently, when she is released from her slumber, we slowly learn the price of such a birth as the story unfolds.
The two young leads, Risa Goto and Hiroki Kohara, give the characters passion without resorting to typical teen-angst style melodramatics and the story remains clear and well-thought out whilst retaining its fast pace and intriguing narrative.
All in all, Sleeping Bride is an excellent choice for those who wish to experience the creative brilliance of Japanese cinema, and in particular Hideo Nakata, but wish to avoid the horror genre altogether.