Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dream Movies to See: Waking Life

Cover of "Waking Life"
Cover of Waking Life
           Many movies include dream sequences used for various dramatic effects, but far fewer are movies strictly about dreaming.  The movies that are built around the topic of dreaming are usually far-fetched fantasies, mind-bending horror tales, or science-fiction/speculative studies of the dream world.

           Then there is Waking Life, a 2001 film by Richard Linklater.   Waking Life is a remarkable film on many levels.  Not to be merely passed off as a cartoon for adults, Linklater's film was actually shot on digital video using live actors and then given the animated appearance through a process called rotoscope, where the frames are drawn over and colored in.  This process creates a visual that is a very disorienting fluid look.  The result is a wonderfully fanciful dreamscape.

           There is limited plot to the film.  Basically the main character wanders from scene to scene meeting up with an assortment of characters with whom he carries on a variety of conversations that cover topics such as philosophy, religion, politics, and the very nature of dreaming life versus waking life.  As the film progresses, the unidentified main character tries to figure out whether he is dreaming or not and eventually tries to find a way to escape the ongoing dream in which he feels trapped.  The basic story is comparable to a Twilight Zone episode.

           This a talking film--little in the way of action, but a lot of very interesting discussion.   Waking Life almost comes across as a sort of documentary about ideas and theories.  In a sense the film seems like a college catalog where we are given overviews of course topics.   Many of the characters are actually real life philosophers, authors, and other academics expressing some of the ideas for which they are known.

           I've watched this film a number of times and probably will watch it many more.  For me, the film never gets boring as the concepts presented can stimulate some deep thinking.  I still haven't comprehended everything the characters in the film are trying to convey in their discourses.  One idea is touched upon and then the scene moves on to another.  It's a relatively short film that moves quickly because of the pace of flowing from scene to scene.

           The soundtrack is outstanding.  Mostly tango influenced, probably because the music is performed by a tango ensemble that consists of a string quartet, an accordion, and keyboard.  The music is appealing and what could be accurately described as haunting.  This is one of my favorite soundtracks.

           Waking Life presents the most accurate film recreation of what a dream is like, from the look of the film to the conversations in the dialog to the disorienting effect of the complete experience.  This could be one of my dreams.

            If you are willing to take the 90 minute journey and don't require constant action, you might enjoy Waking Life.   I find it to be intellectually stimulating and a learning experience--or at least a thinking experience.  It could be great fun for viewing with family or friends who like to discuss what they've seen.  I encourage you to try it out.  Let me know what you think of the film if you watch it.

          Have you seen Waking Life?   What did you think?    Can you think of any other films that deal strictly with the process of dreaming, the nature of the mind, and the philosophy of existence?  


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  1. I'm fairly sure I attempted to watch this movie once but didn't manage to make it to the end. But perhaps I just wasn't in the proper frame of mind for it at the time.

    Maybe I'll give it a second chance someday.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  2. This looks interesting. One I would like to see. I'll add it to Netflix now.

  3. Never heard of it at all. Watched the trailer....pretty trippy.

  4. StMc -- It can be something you'd have to be in the mood for or perhaps it's mostly a matter of taste. I enjoy the influx of ideas and thoughts I get while watching this. It's not a normal movie.

    Faraway eyes -- If you like this sort of thing I think you will enjoy this film. It can make you think.

    JoJo -- Trippy it is. Probably another reason the film appeals to me.



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The Dreamer