Have you ever wondered why memories from your high school and college years always seem the clearest? The fondest? Back in the day, music sounded better, beer tasted crisper, energy was boundless, and you, and only you, really understood how the world worked and what it all meant.
Psychologists have a term for this experience: Reminiscence Bump—the tendency for our minds to hold on to a greater number of memories from adolescence and early adulthood than any other period in our lives. As we get older, life becomes muddled and foggy, bogged down by the constantly growing to-do lists that must be handled. You’re always behind. You’re always prepping for the next whatever. Nothing is enough.
But not back then. Back then, life was eternally in the present; there was nothing to hold you back, and there was nothing the future couldn’t be. Capturing that reckless abandon isn’t an easy task, but the new Polish movie All These Sleepless Nights does, telling one man’s story as an early adulthood memoir set in the present tense.
Directed by Michal Marczak, All These Sleepless Nights is a little like a Terrence Malick movie without the spiritual overtones and a little like a Gaspar Noé movie without the misogyny. The movie is one long dance of images and of youth. The camera follows Krzysztof (Krzysztof Baginski), a young man on the edge of adulthood, as he dances and drinks his way from house party to house party through Warsaw’s thriving electronic dance music scene.
The people Krzysztof meets on his journey are exactly the same. Rarely without a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, they dance the night into the morning where sunken eyes peer through haze and smoke and wonder what it all means. They are hardly seen eating, seemingly living on a diet of vodka and 128 beats per minute. And if the night becomes too much, there is always a line of cocaine waiting to straighten them back out and get them ready for more.
In between those nights, there are women—first Eva (Eva Lebuef) and then Natalia (Natalia Atmanska). But neither woman is an object Krzysztof momentarily picks up before casting off. Eva and Natalia are more like individual satellites, reflecting Krzysztof’s light as he reflects theirs, both momentarily caught in the other’s orbit. They circle each other for a spell before breaking free and hurdling off once again into the darkness of the unknown.
Therein lies the mystery and pleasure of youth. In the moment, everything seems significant. Everything seems important. Everything seems eternal. It’s only upon reflection that these kids realize: Maybe it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
There is a brief moment at the end of All These Sleepless Nights where Krzysztof poses these kinds of questions to his friends, but no one listens. They are too lost in their own world, their own orbits, to give a damn about anyone else. That neither frustrates nor angers Krzysztof, he’s too busy being lost in his own.
All These Sleepless Nights / Wszystkie nieprzespane noce (2016)
Directed by Michal Marczak
Written by Michal Marczak, Katarzyna Szczerba
Produced by Thomas Benski, Marta Golba, Julia Nottingham, Lucas Ochoa
Starring: Krzysztof Baginski, Eva Lebuef, Natalia Atmanska
The Orchard, Rated R, Running time 100 minutes, Premiered Jan. 23, 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival.