#12 – “THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP” (2006)
Directed by Michel Gondry
Proving that sometimes our greatest love stories exist only in our dreams Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep” caresses your consciousness with its irrepressibly inventive display of creativity, craftsmanship and visual flair.
When we first meet Stéphane (Gael Garcia Bernal) he’s busy presenting the latest edition of “Stéphane TV” from his eggbox-décored cardboard studio in which he shares with us the true recipe of our deepest dreams (random thoughts, memories, songs, friendships, relationships and “all those ships.”) whilst gleefully tossing them all into a huge cooking pot in front of him and stirring the resulting mixture. Yet it’s already clear to the audience that this particular studio exists only inside Stéphane’s head yet it’s a location we’ll inevitably return to several times throughout the film’s runtime as reality and fantasy merge as one and wild thoughts, concepts and ideas invade this wholly quixotic mind.
A wonderfully imaginative soul young Stéphane is sorely disappointed to discover a new job position in a calendar printing company doesn’t afford him the sense of creative freedom his mother promised it would. But when he meets the equally fertile mind of Stéphanie (the delightful Charlotte Gainsbourg with an accent that is sure to melt your heart) the simple fact of their similarly sounding names is but a small coincidence on the path to a beautiful friendship, a creative union and quite possibly true love.
For anyone who’s aware of Gondry’s prolific career in the music video industry and who has previously seen his work for the likes of Daft Punk, The Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Björk and The Chemical Brothers it’ll surely come as no surprise to discover that “The Science of Sleep” is an artistic triumph, literally overflowing with ideas, character, playfulness, originality and inspiring visual techniques. Eschewing big budget CGI FX in favour of more old school artistry such as rear projection, miniatures and stop motion animation lends the film a truly magical dreamscape that, to some extent, is even more successful in conjuring up the sheer imaginative wealth and whimsical folly of our dreams than Chris Nolan’s 2010 dreambuster “Inception” was. Smaller in scope and scale it may very well be but the style, charm, warmth, impulsiveness and sheer creative unpredictability of Stéphane’s dreamscapes (a place populated by entire cardboard cities, animated disasters happening outside office windows and boats drifting across seas of cellophane) would surely cause Dom Cobb to rethink his employment opportunities!
But all this eye candy would effectively be for nothing if the film lacked a true heart and soul so it’s both refreshing and exhilarating to discover a film so rich in character, emotion, honesty, wit and beauty. For this is a film not so much about true love but the harmonious union of two uniquely creative souls in as much a cerebral love affair as an emotional one.
In reality Stéphane is a hopelessly shy, unpredictable and somewhat petulant individual yet one whose boundless display of creative energy and imagination lend him an infectiously adorable fascination. The intoxicating Stéphanie soon emerges a kindred spirit, an individual also drawn to the whimsical, offbeat and surreal and it’s not long before Stéphane falls hopelessly in love with her. Watching Stéphane and Stéphanie explore their ideas together is never less than charming, from Stéphane’s 3D glasses that “let you see the real world in 3D”, his one second time machine or the truly magical scene in which he transforms Golden the Pony Boy into a fully automated horse and we see him galloping across Stephanie’s bedroom floor and across her piano keys.
Ending on a bittersweet note that suggests that perhaps Stéphane will only ever be truly happy within his dreams “The Science of Sleep” is the work of a true visual genius and a film that delights the retinas as much as it warms the heart. Just close your eyes and open your heart and this may very well be a dream you’ll never want to wake up from …
“Things’ll turn out the way you want, if you could just stop doubting that I love you”
Track #3 – “THÈME GÉNÉRIQUE FIN: GOLDEN THE PONY BOY”
Written by Jean-Michel Bernard and Kimiko Ono