In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I think The Science of Sleep might be the most unadulterated Michel Gondry-est of all Michel Gondry movies. And I loved every Michel Gondry-esque second of it.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“Tonight, I’ll show you how dreams are prepared. People think it’s a very simple and easy process but it’s a bit more complicated than that. As you can see, a very delicate combination of complex ingredients is the key.”
Whimsy is a very difficult tone to get right when making a movie or telling a story. Too little, and what’s the point? Too much, and your movie is overly precious and far too up its own ass to ever have anything to offer the audience at large. Michel Gondry is one of the very few directors who has been able to make a successful, mainstream career out of whimsy. Most of that big screen came largely thanks to screenplays by America’s whimsy King, Charlie Kaufman. But Gondry generated plenty before those collaborations via music videos, and has done a good many since, with movies like The Science of Sleep.
After his father’s death, the mainly Mexican raised Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) returns to his mother’s home in Paris. She has lured him there via the promise of a job in graphic design that will fill his creative urges. Instead, what he finds is mind dumbing job type setting calendars, and his old, childhood bedroom in an apartment building owned by his mother. One day, trying to leave home, he ends up injured by a piano being moved by his new neighbour, Stepahnie (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
A chronic daydreamer, Stephane’s subconscious and real world constantly interact. Sometimes the dream world is immensely obvious through handmade, craft work sets and props constructed out of cardboard and his imagination. Other times, the real and dream worlds blend in more subtle ways, where it might not even be possible to tell his imaginary actions from reality. But one thing that only becomes more and more real is his attraction to Stephanie.
Michael Gondry loves practical, in camera specials effects. His knack for ancient film making tricks like forced perspective and elaborate props is what made his depiction of the subconscious in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so mesmerisingly effective and dreamily familiar. He turned his obsession for this kind of thing into an entire movie with Be Kind Rewind. So it’s no surprise that a movie built around the melding of someone’s dream world and their reality is so perfectly executed in The Science of Sleep.
For all of his surface level trickery and showing off, Michel Gondry has always built his movies on very real, very relatable, very raw emotions. All of his artifice is just there to show the very real heart of what we all genuinely feel on the inside. And The Science of Sleep might be the most overt in its outward representation of what goes on inside. From what I remember, it was kind of dismissed when it came out. And I haven’t heard it talked about much in the years since. But I think The Science of Sleep might be the most unadulterated Michel Gondry-est of all Michel Gondry movies. And I loved every Michel Gondry-esque second of it.