Every person has vivid dreams -- so vivid that when they wake, it's hard to tell what's real and what was just in your dream.
And Michel Gondry, the genius behind "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," is just the director to tackle a movie about those dreams. Peppered with some of the weirdest scenes imaginable, Gondry guides this bizarre, sublime little movie to heights that most directors couldn't even dream of. (Pun intended)
Stéphane Miroux (Gael García Bernal) is a creative young dreamer from Mexico, who is lured back to Paris to live with his widowed mother. Unfortunately, the job she gets him is dull and creativity-free -- making calendars. The only upside is Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young woman who has moved into the same building.
Though he is initially attracted to her roommate, he soon finds that it is Stephanie he likes. Their involvement starts off well, but soon Stéphane has bungled things. He becomes increasingly wrapped up in his bizarre dreams, which are encroaching on his view of "reality." Will reality or dreams triumph, and will Stéphane be won over by love?
With a movie like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" under his belt, it must be hard for Gondry to try to surpass himself. And while "Science of Sleep" is another exploration of the mind, it's a radically different kind of movie -- visual, quirky, and with a bittersweet edge. It has some disjointed moments, and it's not nearly as accessable, but the overall effect is like one long dream.
In a way, this movie is about escaping reality, into the labyrinth of your mind -- it might make you feel better for awhile, but ultimately it won't solve your problems, or improve your life. And to find love, you have to face the pain of reality. By the finale, some measure of peace is attained -- but still its meaning is utterly ambiguous. The viewer can decide what happens.
For the visuals, Gondry falls back on his music-video past. His music videos for the White Stripes, Bjork and Chemical Brothers were all wonderfully strange, and this movie is full of kittycat suits, enormous hands, and other magical items that seem plucked from a child's whimsical daydream. Even the mundane surroundings are colourful and striking.
Bernal plays a difficult character -- let's face it, Stéphane is rather strange, with a child's wonder and selfishness. But through glimpses into Stéphane's mind, Gondry creates sympathy for his awkwardness and creativity, and his yearning for love. The scenes where Stéphane and Stephanie (similar names for similar people) make things together has a curiously innocent intimacy.
Whimsical and almost hallucinogenic, "The Science of Sleep" is one of the most unique and compelling movies of the last year. It's not as accessable as his prior films, but it has its own bizarre charm.