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The Science of Sleep
2 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Michel Gondry

Written By:
Ron Nyswaner

Gael Garcia Bernal, Alain Chabat, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Miou-Miou, Pierre Vaneck, Aurélia Petit, Emma de Caunes, Jean-Michel Bernard, Inigo Lezzi, Stéphane Metzger

The Science of Sleep (2006)
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Movie Review by Ezra
February 13th, 2007

Michel Gondry's (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature) latest feature, The Science of Sleep, is a sumptuous amalgamation of dream images, blurring the lines of reality in the life of its protagonist, a childlike inventor named Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal).

A new resident of Paris, Stephane takes a supposedly "creative" job set up for him by his mother. As it turns out, he is more of a typesetter for lame calendars than a graphic designer/illustrator, which is where his interests actually lie, but he keeps the job out of necessity and forms a friendship with a lecherous co-worker named Guy (Alain Chabat), who complements Stephane's innocence with nearly constant sexual jokes and innuendo. Upon moving into his Parisian apartment, Stephane meets Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), his female counterpart in more than just name. Together, they form an uneasy friendship always bordering on something more, but they are each too timid and lost in their own dream-life to move the relationship further. When they are alone, they work on strange inventions culled from the dreams that inhabit their lives, often encroaching on their waking lives to the point where it is difficult to tell where the borders lie.

Throughout the film, Stephane introduces each new story development on an imaginary talk show in which he performs before cardboard cameras and is sometimes interrupted by the voice of his mother. At one point, he dreams of a message made entirely of gibberish that he wants to get to Stephanie, only to wake and find that he actually has written and delivered the message in his sleep. These uncertainties about the distinction between dreams and the "real" world pervade the film, drawing the viewer into a surrealistic dream-state that few other films have accomplished. Two that most readily come to mind are Richard Linklater's Waking Life and David Lynch's Mullholland Dr., but Science has its own unique take on the nature of dream that actually goes deeper into the subconscious than either of these films. Stylistically, it is similar to Sunshine, though Science is much more chaotic, utilizing techniques and images Gondry has perfected in his music videos over the years. His visual effects are entirely made of real costumes, props and sets, rather than CG, which gives the film a handmade feel and perfectly illustrates Stephane's childlike mindscape, taking the viewer on a journey through his head.

Though the film is extremely funny at times, many viewers will likely overlook its overall sadness, similar to the mass audience reaction to Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love. In that case, it was the presence of a well-known comic actor that made many people respond to heart-wrenching emotion with laughter; in Science's case, it may be difficult for some to look past the sex jokes and "big hands" to see the quiet despair of Stephane's world, where nothing in reality can match the endless possibilities of his imagination.

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