The Science of Sleep
March 1, 2007
After three feature films, music video visionary Michel Gondry has finally originated his own project, entitled The Science of Sleep (2006), applying his own unique brand of magic realism without filtering his sensibilities through the screenplays of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) or through the dominant personality of comedian Dave Chappelle (Block Party). Many of Gondry’s videos feel like waking dreams – the fairy tale vibe of Bjork’s “Human Behaviour” or the child-like playfulness of the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Many of his videos also have a hand-made look to them with a lot of the special effects done in-camera utilizing old school tricks of the trade.
Stephane (Bernal) has an extremely active dream life where he is the host, camera operator and band leader of his own television talk show, aptly named Stephane TV. He returns home after his father dies and gets a mundane office job assembling calendars. He feels that his creativity is being stifled and tries to pitch his own idea to his new boss – a calendar of his illustrations depicting horrific disasters. He comes home and dreams that he attacks his co-workers with gigantic hands and his boss is transformed into a Rip Van Winkle-style homeless man. Stephane’s dreams are surreal flights of fancy that allow Gondry to cut loose with his arsenal of tricks: stop-motion animation, rear projection and forced perspective, amongst others.
A new neighbour by the name of Stephanie (Gainsbourg) moves in next door and he meets her and her friend Zoe. They lie and tell him that they work as talent agents for a record company when they actually work in an arts supply store. He finds himself attracted to Stephanie but can’t work up the courage to tell her how he feels. They spend more time together and get along famously, bonding over one of his inventions (his true passion is to be an inventor), as he finds out that she shares his love of creativity and imagination. Stephane is on the cusp of slipping into the daily routine of a 9-to-5 job and the film’s tension comes from his resistance to this process. We hope that his dreams catch up with his reality.
Gael Garcia Bernal continues to be one of the most fascinating actors to watch if only for the diversity of the roles he chooses, from the sex-obsessed twentysomething in Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) to a hip demon in Don’t Tempt Me (2001) to an idealistic Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). He isn’t afraid to dive headlong into a role and that kind of fearlessness is exciting to watch.
This movie displays a sophisticated innocence as Stephane concocts a stew of dreams with the ingredients of random thoughts, romance, memories from the past, love, and relationships. Gondry takes the naiveté of learning life’s lessons and filters it through a surreal worldview. The characters are ill-prepared to live in reality and find comfort in surreality. Gondry uses a world of make-believe to represent naiveté. Like children, he sees the world without any filters and creates worlds with their own non-sensical logic. When we grow up we apply filters to the way we perceive things because of the demands and responsibilities life imposes on us. In doing so, we lose the innocence that makes childhood such a magical time. The Science of Sleep is a litmus test to see if we are still in touch with that inner child to see if we still have some of that unfiltered naiveté and then contrasts it with the constraints of adult life as represented by people who lie, are cruel, and so on. Gondry wants to be Peter Pan but has the common sense to realize that the real world is there. He loves the dream worlds of his childhood and uses the mediums of film and music videos to visit them again and again.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Michel Gondry and cast members Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sacha Bourdo. They laugh and have fun on this engaging track, reminiscing about shooting certain scenes. Although, Gondry, Gainsbourg and Bourdo occasionally slip into French which makes them difficult to understand. Bernal is particularly entertaining as he tells some amusing anecdotes about filming, like the challenge of doing a scene in English when he and the other actor don’t speak it as their native tongue. He and Gondry tend to dominate the track and offer lots of good observations about the film.
“The Making of The Science of Sleep” starts off briefly covering how Gondry got into film. He says that a lot of his ideas for films come from his dreams. He worked piecemeal on the screenplay for The Science of Sleep over several years. This is not your typical, fluffy promotional featurette and does an excellent job examining how this film came together.
“Lauri” is an interview with the lady who created the wonderful animals that are animated in the film. She talks about her love of horses and how she came up with the name of the horse in the movie.
“Rescue Me” is an odd featurette about a lady who saves stray cats. It’s a cute extra especially if you’re a cat lover but has nothing to do with the film.
Same goes with “Adopt Some Love” which is about people who take care of stray cats and why they feel compelled to do this.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.