Imagine you’re able to render through a visual medium a collection of your most colorful, emotional and insightful dreams. Now imagine if those dreams came from a creative, intellectual genius like Friedrich Nietzsche, Leonardo da Vinci or Edgar Allen Poe.
Michel Gondry is to visual media what Salvador Dali is to surrealism – eccentric, unique and thought provoking; his reality, nor direction, aren’t confined to cinematic norms, weaving their way through the conscious and unconscious while visually stimulating the cerebral cortex to ask you why?
“The Science of Sleep,” Gondry’s follow up to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” isn’t as interrelated, whimsical or philosophical as the 2004 hit, but a cinematic masterpiece and oddity nonetheless.
Gondry’s film is a collection of surrealistic moments playfully woven together to reveal an adult’s version of a preteen romance – innocent, honest and awkward.
This disenchanted love story trades in every romantic cliche and every bit of sexiness to stray from the conventions of the film’s genre.
The film is set in Paris, where Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) returns to live with his mother in his childhood home, now divided into two flats, to work as a calendar artist.
His mother lives with her oddly deceitful magician boyfriend, leaving a flat to Stephane, and renting the other to Stephanie and Zoe (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Emma De Caunes).
Throughout the film, Gondry takes you through Stephane’s dreams, an unruly subconscious dominated by the irrational. His most prominent dream is his portrayal of a talk show host performing peculiar routines on a stage set in various portions of his head.
Though inwardly Stephane is brilliantly dramatic and unique, consciously he’s socially awkward, and his social ineptness becomes more evident as he tries to win the beautiful Stephanie’s affection.
Stephanie is enamored by Stephane’s innocent charm and love for the arts, but she isn’t attracted to him. She describes him in the movie as “kind of retarded.”
However, this doesn’t prevent Stephane from enticing Stephanie further into his childishly and overly imaginative psyche.
The film’s storyline doesn’t set it apart like Gondry’s earlier collaborated work with Hollywood’s most innovative and creative screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman. But, as in his earlier films, it’s more visually compelling than anything coming out of contemporary film. However, it’s Gondry’s uncharacteristic plot and sequence that sets the movie a part.
It’s as though Gondry used Jackson Pollock’s method of abstract expressionism to paint his movie. He sliced the film into perfect moments, let them drip onto the canvas that is film and created something priceless, though perhaps misunderstood.
“The Science of Sleep” is like the perfect dream. It leaves you stupefied and perplexed, wanting nothing more than to crawl back into your bed, and with eyes shut, euphorically wade through your subconscious into a world that isn’t confined to the rational.
5 out of 5 stars
The 2006 Spanish-language masterpiece “La science des reves” is rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity.