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The Cure for Insomnia is a video released in 1987. It is notable for being the longest video ever released, at more than 87 hours. Very few people have ever seen the video in its entirety, but it is a famous staple of film classes and random trivia.
The first release of The Cure for Insomnia was at the School of the Art Institute, in Chicago. It played from January 31st through February 3rd, without stopping. Its exact running time is 5220 minutes, making it more than 40 times longer than the average full-length feature.
Because The Cure for Insomnia was shot entirely on video, rather than film, and because its stated premise was to put people to sleep, rather than to entertain or educate, some people contest whether or not it can be considered a film in the purest sense. In spite of this, The Cure for Insomnia is listed in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest movie.
There is no plot to The Cure for Insomnia. Instead, it features the poet and visual artist Lee Groban, reciting a 5,000 page poem, also entitled "The Cure for Insomnia." Lee Groban has been an active participant in the Chicago art scene since the 1970s, and has been a part of many different artistic projects, ranging from visual art to performance art to poetry. Lee Groban is also featured in the Guinness World Records, under the category of world’s longest poem. The poem itself is considered to be a work in progress, with the movie of The Cure for Insomnia providing a single snapshot in time of the work.
The Cure for Insomnia features a great deal of repetition and list-like cadences. For example, one segment reads: “I wonder how come the cartoonists of our most popular newspaper comic strips never use Polish, Armenian, or Romany Gypsy names for their characters? Why only Western European names? ‘THAT all y'do all day? Soun's like a drag...&srquo; By the beard of the Lord Eordogh of Ordogkeresztur and Nagyeskulo, it's a drag. By the beard of the Lord Cseffei of Totor and Noszalya, it's a drag. By the beard of the Lord Bethlen of Kallo, Ecsed, Tokaj, Szendo, Murany, Szecseny, and Regecz, it's a drag. By the beard of the Lord Tomori of Devecser, Besenyo, Gyanda, Borsfalva, Csobad, Felso-Homrogd, Also-Homrogd, Hegymeg, Berkes, Szakacsi, Kercs, Senye, Cseb, Nyilas, Abauj, and Borsod, it's a drag. By the beard of the Lord Dolhai of Kereczke, Kusnicza, Zadnya, Kelecseny, Vizkoz, and Okormezo, it's a drag. By the beard of the Lord Visoi of Felso-Viso, it's a drag.”
Imagining such litanies of beards, for example, continuing for minutes on end gives an approximation of what the movie of The Cure for Insomia is like. The cadence is, of course, intentional, as is reflected in the title of the piece. A cure for insomnia would put you to sleep, as would such a long and repetitive piece.