Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Science of Sleep

Writer/director Michel Gondry‘s film is a wild ride through a uique and fascinating world. The film exists in two worlds, reality and the dreams of the main character, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.

Promised a creative job by his mother, Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) moves back home to the apartment house. Once there he discovers two things. The first is the job is nothing more than mindless office work. The second happens when he meets a young woman who lives across the hall and discovers, to his amazement, he loves her.

Now things are going to get complicated, so stay with me. Stephane meets his neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her friend Zoe (Emma de Caunes).

For no real reason the relationship begins in lies. Stephane, more attracted to Zoe than Stephanie, says he lives across town, and the girls both lie about thier jobs. Slowly he realizes that it is Stephanie who is the real prize.

At this point Stephane’s dream world starts to take over as he envisions himself the creator and star of his own TV show, master of the calendar making business, and living out elaborate fantasies with Stephanie.

The plot of the film is hard to follow as the line between reality and dream fades. As an audience member you may find this fascinating or maddening, depending on your tastes. The film straddles this increasingly narrow line throughout the course of the film, so be ready for it.

The story struggles in parts, characters make odd and even sometimes unbelievable decisions and actions, but the tone of the film helps hold everything together and keeps the film on track.

The set design for Stephane’s dream world is just damn cool. The cars and cameras are made out of cardboard (and at one point the entire world is transformed into a cardboard creation). I must commend the production team, who in many ways are the real stars of the film - Ann Chakraverty, Pierre Pell, Stephane Rosenbaum, and Lauri Faggioni and Bruno Guillemet who worked on the creations, sculptures, and animals in the fillm. Bravo.

I was only able to view the film once, and I’m unsure if I would like it more or less after multiple viewings. It’s an original effort, that despite some flaws, comes across well on film. You’ll have to hunt the art houses for this one, but I think you’ll find your time well spent (or your head will explode in the first half-hour). Either way, it’s an experience to remember. And isn’t that what we want from our movies?

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