Goose Egg Marathon Film #16"Randomness is very difficult to achieve"
The Science of Sleep
(2006, Michel Gondry)
It's hard to come out of the Science of Sleep
without thinking about Michel Gondre's previous film, the Charlie Kaufman penned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
. Both are mindbending distortions of time and consciousness with bombastic imagery but heart at it's core. However if the two films were Pink Floyd CDs, Eternal Sunshine
would be "Dark of the Moon" and The Science of Sleep
would be "The Wall". The first being slightly more consumable, atmospheric and consistant in quality...the second being more daring, a bit more of a challenge to get your bearings with highs higher and lows lower. In both cases the results are feast for the eyes and a thoroughly satisfying experience.
The Science of sleep centers around a young single inventor, artist and tinkerer, Stephane (Gael García Bernal) who has difficulty discerning his dreams from his waking life. Complications arise as he attempts to become romantically involved with his French neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the apartment across the way. The film gives the audience no more clues than Stephanie has as to his current state of consciousness from one scene to the next - which admittedly be extremely frustrating for an unsympathetic audience member, but I really enjoyed the challenge.
None of this would work without great performances by Bernal and Gainsbourg. Their flirty, dysfunctional relationship elevates the film - giving the sureal set of mind games a much-needed grounding and some real sweetness. It was pretty easy to emphasize with Stephane's inability to make a connection, and Stephanie's challenge at understanding why he was so random from meeting to the next. At one point the two are discussing a project to work on together involving trees and a boat. Their enthusiasm in infectious. Gondre mixes the scene with real and imagined elements which are particularily effective. Another scene Stephanie and a girlfriend are giggling as they watch him through a peep-hole. I have to admit grinning ear to ear through some of this.
Perhaps where The Science of Sleep
will play second fiddle to Eternal Sunshine
is simply in the fact the lessons here are less poigniant and effecting. It's not really a knock on the film - this wasn't what it was going for. It's more a "what if" set of questions, whereas Sunshine's themes are more universal. Nevertheless, I can really recommend to this to someone his is looking for something that's not quite the standard fare - a relationship movie with brains or one of those "out there" movies that is just cohensive enough to keep it out of Von Trier territory.
Anyways - a fun fun film. One of my favorites from the marathon. It's not as likely I will end up purchasing this (like I did with Jesse James, Spirited Awway, Children of Men and Eternal Sunshine) but I'm sure I'll sure look forward to watching it again .
Magical, inventive and twisted in the best sense of the word. Great imagery meets great characters