Sunday, October 15, 2006


The Science of SleepGael García Bernal Directed by Michel Gondry
Starring Gael García Bernal
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



If you thought director Michel Gondry’s ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND was dream-like, you ain’t seen nothing yet. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP plunges headlong into the line that separates dreams from reality and blurs it so perfectly as to make the audience feel as if they’ve stepped into a piece of an artist’s REM sleep.

What the film does so well is create a moving canvas on the screen (note: see this on the big screen) while at the same time challenging the audience to follow the story of a struggling artist named Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES) as he moves into his mother’s home after the death of his father. Next door to their flat, he finds a woman with a like-minded soul named — oddly enough — Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, JANE EYRE). Initially Stephane is attracted to Stephanie’s friend but soon learns that Stephanie and he have artistic aspirations that go beyond the norm.

But Stephane is not just artistically inclined while he’s awake, but while he sleeps, too. His dream world starts encroaching on the "real" and vice-versa, making it seem as if he were having waking dreams. Stephane has a news casting set (in his dreams) that acts as his platform from which his ideas/dreams launch. He is the camera operator, sound technician, and host for his dreams, having two pulled shades against backdrop windows that represent his eyelids and a third, larger window that acts as the gateway for his dreams.

As Stephanie becomes more and more a part of his life, she becomes more and more intertwined in his dreams (both sleeping and waking). Their strange relationship builds within Stephane’s dream world only to be fuddled up by the real one. But can a person’s dreams turn their life around? Can it become more lifelike than the waking world? Such are questions left up to the audience’s interpretation.

The living tapestry-style artwork of the dream world will be the biggest pull for movie watchers. The colors, scene jumps, and nonsensical dreams are pure eye-candy — one might wonder if being on hallucinogens could make the film experience even more enjoyable. The other big plus is that the movie actually engages the audience and challenges them to understand what is happening rather than just dragging us through another vapid and transparent Hollywood plot. And most viewers will feel that if their eyes leave the screen they’ll miss something vital or be pulled out of this fantastically visual world and dumped back into their own drab existence. Such is the magic of The Science of Sleep.

And it is magical. Childlike wonder and adult fantasy live comfortably side by side in Gondy’s latest cinematic offering and it is an excellent, if unusual (and fresh), work of art.

Click here for The Science of Sleep movie trailer!


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