@THE THEATER – “The Science Of Sleep”

20061020-scienceof.jpgw /F/ Stop Fitzgerald
directed by Michel Gondry
starring Gael Garcia Bernal & Charlotte Gainsbourg

Stephane is an artist/inventor living in his mother’s apartment (the first they’ve seen each other since his father’s death) and works in a calendar assembly studio, which isn’t quite the artistic avenue he believed he was going down. Gondry continues the recent tradition of the “boy meets girl but the boy’s kinda crazy�? plot, but Sleep doesn’t touch on any of the clichés of a traditional love story, no matter how close it gets.

This movies’ strong suite (because it is also Gondry’s) are the beautiful and stunning animated sequences. In a way Gondry is Stephane, because all the illusions, which he invokes in his dreams and realities, are merely what Gondry does throughout the whole film. The dream sequences are among the best cinematic representations of dreams I have ever seen, and the widespread use of stop-motion and other film animation styles are tasteful and elegant.

As I said before, Stephane moves home for a job, which isn’t what he expected, and certainly not the arena for his creative outlook. It is impossible for him to communicate his ideas because 1. His coworkers don’t care, and 2. He speaks terrible French. This second point also brings up one drawback of the film, which Stephane brings up himself, that being spoken to/at in several languages makes him “feel schizophrenic�? (the film is set in France, Stephane lived in Mexico, but everyone can speak English).

Anyway, Stephane moves into his mother’s apartment in a building she owns, staying in his childhood room, untouched since he left with his dad. This room is what you’d expect from someone enamored with the idea of sleep and dreams. He has a very specific routine which he goes through before the light goes out, maybe its because he’s in his childhood room that he checks the closets for ghosts, but I can’t explain the full suite laying across the floor (though the mallet and pulley light switch is very Pee-Wee-esque). Stephanie, the new next-door neighbor, is also creative and she and Stephane make great plans for a film about a forest in a boat (which Gondry ends up actually making in the conclusion).

So the films progresses with a pattern of clichés gone horribly wrong (in the characters actions, not the film). Stephane, perhaps because his only release for his creative drive is Stephanie, and because he is confined to his childhood surroundings, becomes increasingly erratic and immature. His dreams become nightmares featuring his loathsome office mates holding him back from his desires, which is his reality at the time, as well. The TV show of his dreams is no longer his, and once the lists of guests are under his control, they don’t want any part of it. But believe me, there’s still a happy ending.