film review: The Science of Sleep (2006)4 Comments
Until a few years ago Michel Gondry was primarily known as a music video director. His videos include Around The World by Daft Punk, Everlong by Foo Fighters, Come Into My World by Kylie Minogue and my personal favourite Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground by The White Stripes. His first foray into feature films in 2001 with, Human Nature written by Charles Kaufman, was generally ignored however it was his next collaboration with Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, that really made people take notice. With such a critically acclaimed film to his name it seems only fair that Gondry be allowed to be somewhat… indulgent with the next film he wrote.
The Science of Sleep is that film. Starring Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film tells the story of an innocent man, a man who lives in a fantastic land where his dreams can help him realise a relationship with a women he’s just met. It’s a sweet story and I’ll come straight out and say it. I thought it was great. I will say this, the weirdness hits you from the outset, everything I had heard before seeing this pointed to the fact that it would be strange but I had expected the film to build to it in the same way that we would have seen in Eternal Sunshine.
The plot itself is quite simple. Following the death of his father in Mexico, Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), a shy dreamy fellow, agrees to move to Paris to be closer to his mother as she has promised him that she has an apartment for him and a creative job in a calender company . He moves into the apartment and becomes entranced with his next door neighbour, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). However his life keeps getting in the way, his aspirations to be a graphic designer are stifled in the calender-making company as his actual position is completely mudane and is driving him further into his dream world. He shares a delicate bond with Stéphanie however he has become caught up in a lie pretending that he lives in another building. As he becomes more frustrated his fantasies start to consume him however his relationship with Stéphanie is growing and it all has to come to a head sometime… a fairly classic tale of boy meets girl.
That said, a simple plot can be worked into a great film and that’s what Gondry has done here. His strength lies in his visual style and whereas in Eternal Sunshine he understated the stylistic end and carried a more complicated plot, in this film he fills out the plot with intricate visuals. If you’re familiar with Michel Gondry’s music videos at all then you’ll notice different elements from the likes of Everlong throughout the film. From cellophane water to the patchwork horse, the details in this film are immense and, if I’m being honest, some people will probably find that this overwhelms the film. Even as a fan of Gondry I think do it’s somewhat indulgent however as weird, whimsical and sometimes engulfing, some of images are, I never felt that Gondry lost sight of his characters. Through it all I cared what happened to this two… kindred spirits if you will… and end of the day this is something that so many film makers fail to do.
Anyway, this is my first review for this blog and I’m afraid that I’m waffling on too much so I’ll stop now… let me know what you think, anything else about the film you want to hear? I hope you found this interesting, good bye!