The Sleeping Dictionary

Synopsis: John Truscott goes to Borneo to work with the Iban. He reports to Henry Bullard, who gives him a "sleeping dictionary"--one of the locals who teaches him the local language and culture. And who he gives John is Selima. And while teaching him, John finds himself attracted to her. And we says it's not allowed, both the locals and Bullard forbid him to be in a relationship with Selima. But he defies them which has dire consequences.
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director(s): Guy Jenkin
Production: Fine Line Features
  4 wins & 6 nominations.
109 min

Get out of here!

Get off!

Excuse me.

Excuse me.

Excuse me.

I was expecting

to be met.

Good morning,


I am Belansai.


to our country.

He's a bright chap.

He'll be the head man

of his Longhouse in two years.

John Truscott.

Henry Bullard.

I'm the governor

of this district,

but you just

think of me as God.

Hop aboard.

You've got far too good

a degree for this job.

What are you running away from?

Your debts?

Your family?

Or a woman?

No, no debts.

No woman.

My mother

died two years ago.

My father was killed

at Passchendaele, so...

Well, why in God's name

are you here?

My father was

a district officer out here.

William C. Truscott?


He'd drawn up a plan

to bring education to the Iban

which the governor general

had approved,

but then he had

to go back to the war...

and it never happened.

And you've brought

this plan with you, have you?

Yes, I think it's our duty

to educate primitive people.

God, you sound

a sanctimonious little prig.

Still, you're young.

Sarawak'll knock

it out of you.


you lazy bastard!

Look at the state

of this place.

Bring Truscott tea and gadgets

double quick.

Come on.

Chibi, chibi, chibi.

It's got bugs in there.

He's the best cook

in Sarawak.

Though strictly speaking

he's still on parole.

What did he do?

Oh, he hacked some damn fool

rickshaw driver to death.

But you should

taste his meringues.

- Shouldn't he be in--

- Now, tomorrow,

you've an invitation

from your local Longhouse,

the Gawa Kenyalong.

So Belansai'll

pick you up.

The feast to honor

the war god

where they take the giant hornbill

statue down from the rafters.

Oh, God.

You read-- books.

I'm afraid they insist

upon it at university.

Do they?

Has it come

to that now?

Yes, I'll--

I'll see you

in a day or so.

Excuse me.

Excuse me.

Excuse me...

What's my job?

This is my father,


He is head man

of the Longhouse.

This is rice wine.

Ah. Um...

I won't drink

on duty, thanks.

To refuse is an insult.

Left, right.

Left, right.

It's chibi,

chibi, chibi!

It is a... very ancient

tribal dance.

Oh, no, um... no.

Very kind

of you to offer,

but I think I'll give it

a miss this time round.

You must make us


A song? A dance?

A poem?

Perhaps all three.

"The sand of the desert

is sodden red,

Red with the wreck

of the ranks that broke.

The Gatling's jammed

and the Colonel dead,

And the regiment blind

with dust and smoke.

The river of death

has brimmed his banks,

And England's far

and honor's a name,

But the voice of a schoolboy

rallies the ranks,

'Play up!

Play up

and play the game!'"

" Da-dum-dum-dum "

" Da-da-da-da,

Dum-dum-dum-dum "

" Da-da-da-da "

Oh, Truscott, you are very

funny Englishman.

Excuse me.

What's going on?

The dancing is over.

We go to sleep now.

You deliberately dropped me

in it, didn't you?

You know I made a complete

fool of myself?

They like a man

who makes them laugh.

Iban society is based

on heavy drinking,

violent sport

and practical jokes.

Just think of it as

English public school

without the buggery.

I'm on a mission to civilize,

not to entertain.

The mining concessions

at Kera Pulau

have been trespassing

outside their boundaries.

Your local Longhouse

got to some Chinese miners

before I did.

You're going to have

to bring in their heads.



we limit the areas where

the mining concerns can--

No, no, no.

You said...

you said "their heads."

Well, yes.

The Iban have

cut them off.



My dear.

This is Selima.

She's going

to live with you.

As what?

Uh... she performs

wifely duties.

Oh yeah?

What... sewing?

She performs wifely duties

in the bedroom.

- For God's sakes, man.

- I sleep with you.

We expect you to know

the language within six months.

Selima's what's known around here

as a "sleeping dictionary."


My mother was also

sleeping dictionary.

That's why I speak

the King English.

There's nothing like bed

for learning a language.

It's the only reason

I speak Portuguese.

No, look, poor girl.

- She was just-- picked?

- I pick you.

And she's really choosy.

She turned down

my last two cadet officers.

Listen, your contract

forbids you

to marry

for three years.

Three years can be

very lonely.

And after three years?

We'll probably all be dead,

so why worry?

Oh, dear.


you'll go home

on leave to England

and you'll come back with

a rosy-cheeked little wife.

Selima will go home

to her Longhouse


fluent English.

Oh, damn it, man,

it's worked for centuries.

There's no reason

why you should be different.

No, I'm sorry, no. No.

I know you think

I'm just some young idiot,

but if I don't follow what

I think's right, what else is there?

Then you'd better find another way

to learn the damn language.

Because if a so-called

educated man

can't speak the language

of the people he governs,

he's no right to be here!

Fine, maybe she can stay as...

just a dictionary?

- If she doesn't mind, that is.

- What?

Mind not sleeping with you?

I'm sure she'll survive.

She said yes.

What else did she say?

You'll have to learn Iban

and find out, won't you?

I'd stand back

if I were you.

Ha ha!


Yes, ants.

Thank you very much.

Good night.

You say no,

she get very angry.

Rain always stop

in morning.

Sleep tight and don't

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Guy Jenkin

Guy Jenkin is a British film director and comedy writer who is best known for working together with Andy Hamilton on sitcoms and comedies such as Drop the Dead Donkey (1990-1998), Outnumbered (2007-2014), and Ballot Monkeys (2015). He wrote the 2002 satirical comedy Jeffrey Archer: The Truth, with Damian Lewis portraying Jeffrey Archer, and the 2003 drama film The Sleeping Dictionary, starring Jessica Alba. Jenkin also contributed to the popular 2006-2007 BBC series Life On Mars, writing the sixth episode of the second series about heroin in 1973 and the Asian community. The episode explores racism at the time. Jenkin is married to Bernadette Davis, the creator and writer of Some Girls. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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