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Walking Eyes in Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep (2006) November 22, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in European Films.


French Title: La science des rêves
Written and directed by Michel Gondry
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a tough act to follow. The law of diminishing returns has predicted it squarely: Gondry’s next film will pale in comparison. A valid argument to raise is that Eternal Sunshine has emphasized more of Kaufman’s brilliance as a scribe than Gondry’s playful direction, but truth is the two work outstandingly well together – – I still have to see Human Nature – – but basing it solely on their second effort, I must say that Gondry is the filmmaker most suited to his eclectic vision, not to diminish the beauty of course of Jonze’s Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, for Gondry himself is a dynamo of tireless ideas, as wonderfully seen in his music videos (my downright favorites are close to everything, no, seriously, Beck’s Deadweight, Cibo Matto’s Sugar Water, White Stripes’ Fell in Love With A Girl, Radiohead’s Knives Out, Björk’s Human Behaviour, Kylie Minogue’s Come Into My World, The Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar, yeah I guess almost everything, and even those whimsical videos with his band, Oui Oui, never fail to leave me in awe), which gave way to his long-deserved entrance to cinema, far and away from his drowsy contemporaries.

The Science of Sleep may not be the better film but it is pure Gondry from start to finish, stapled in each frame is his knockout sense of humor, turning the absurd and superficial into a profound realization of painful truth. It gives a lot of room to his indulgence, it is refreshingly different, strangely interesting in its wayward lightheartedness – – and it boggles you how the seeming silliness of its idea was presented to a major studio like Warner Bros. and got accepted, without the thought of Gondry bringing all his weird inventions in the pitch and passing them around to studio executives. Fate, after all, is everyone’s god, but talent, no matter how marginal, is innate – – in our own parallel synchronized randomness, it is the true equalizer of success. He is blessed with a child’s eye view of things, that beauty of innocence, yet despite his carefree ideas they are not delivered carelessly, he is a genius in a child’s body unaware of his own brilliance, armed with a peculiarly fascinating vision of love and life. It is easy to mistake Gondry’s overflowing imagination to his lack of pragmatism, but as in every great artist, he knows how to conceal the cynicism of this world in a rather beautiful way.

Dreams represent the purest freedom outside our physical selves. In dreams, emotions are overwhelming, says Stephane, and The Science of Sleep floods us with those emotions of wakelessness, it is as though every frame is made up of dreams, of small and big dreams, of the hopeful and the hopeless, of the meaningful and the absurd, of little nightmares, of the magic of the unreal, the escape to our own heaven, opening the door to the most beautiful place in the world. Stephane and Stephanie’s romance floats, it is far from certain, commitment is an illusion, yet there is something between them (or inside them) that communicates, that facilitates the feelings they cannot express, that relays their intentions – – only Stephane cannot control himself with his jest, his incontainable happiness every time he sees Stephanie – – quite possibly he is Gondry’s alter ego. Gael Garcia Bernal exudes a gifted charm that is difficult to resist – – he may be the jack of all trades and the king of nothing, but he certainly has everything to be called a great actor, someone who chooses his roles very well and dedicates himself to them with all his heart in such a way that you can feel his fulfillment, his enjoyment to his craft, not wasting beautiful opportunities that come along his way, his sight makes you want to carry him, and bring him close to you. Charlotte Gainsbourg gives no effort in showing off; her simplicity is her finest trait, her presence is enough, her eyes speak of emptiness, and even her awkwardness works at her advantage; she is adorable, like one’s childhood crush.

This girl is at once all the women that broke my heart.

When Stephanie asks “Why me?” and Stephane answers “Because everyone else is boring,” it is not anymore a dream, it is the randomness of life working its sublime undertanding, that in this pool of strangers, it is more than magic that brings two people together, something stronger than fate, imagination, it really is, the eternity of it, the castle of dreams inside our minds that proves that happiness is not anymore a pursuit because it has always been there, it never leaves us, it just waits for the proper time to show up, and when it does it can only be the most perfect time, and for Gondry, happiness is everything, his world is different from ours, his optimism sparkles to the point of effervescence that misery becomes a strange choice, the only withered flower in a bouquet of red roses.


1. sunshine - November 25, 2008

i love this review!

i remember watching this film in the 2006 opening of cinemanila, and my friend and i wanted to literally hug the screen – which was totally ridiculous of course. but that’s how we felt when we were watching it.

2. Richard Bolisay - November 26, 2008

hi sunshine, hugging the screen is not a bad idea, i might consider doing that next time, especially if the film is as wonderful as this one.

3. andy briones - December 13, 2008

Science of Sleep has its moments, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for me, is superior. I think it has something to do with the screenplay; Michel Gondry is better off as a director than as a writer. Sayang, sana Gondry just let Charlie Kaufman wrote the script for Science of Sleep. Galing ng script ni Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

In hindsight, Gael Garcia Bernal’s scenes with Alain Chabat (Guy) and Aurélia Petit (Martine) are golden; I love them!

Guy: Are you interested in Martine ?
Stephane: Martine from work ?
Guy: No, Martin Scorsese.

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