Posted: 10/03/2006


The Science of Sleep


by Dianne Lawrence

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Science of Sleep is a lyrical, affectionate poem to the budding romance. Directed by Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, Bjork music videos) the film leads you into the fertile dreamscape of the artistic soul in love.

Stephane, played with inventive comic flair by the versatile and exciting Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Motorcycle Diaries) returns to Paris where his mother has secured him a creative opportunity in a calendar company. Arriving on his first day he discovers, to his horror, that it’s a cut n paste job with a group of reality challenged co-workers. Hoping to secure his own calendar, he insists the boss look at his cartoon renderings of great disasters that mark each month. Its glue and scissors for him.

Back at his mother’s apartment (she is staying with her boyfriend) he strikes up a friendship with newly arrived neighbor, Stephanie, played by the excellent Charlotte Gainsbourg who matches Bernal’s charm, ease and imagination.

Distracted at first by her pretty girlfriend, Stephane eventually notices a kindred soul in Stephanie as she begins to talk about some of the many playful and imaginative objects she surrounds herself with. When he discovers a small felt boat she has made, Stephane bursts into a frenzy of joyful creativity and Stephanie jumps aboard as they begin to imagine making a film. They pull cotton out of a box throw it up in the air where it hovers near the ceiling, perfectly cloudlike. They rush into the kitchen, turn on the tap and watch cellophane flow into the sink creating a cellophane lake. We share their delight in the excitement of finding the perfect playmate and as they rush about laughing and coming up with ideas, we can’t help but agree with how wonderful it is to enjoy this kind of imaginative and playful connection with someone.

This signals the start of their new romance as Gondry takes us through all the familiar moments that mark the beginning of true love. The furtive first meeting, the “what the hell, lets hang out” moment, the joyful discovery of shared laughter and interests, the slow realization that love is on the table, the idiotic behavior choices, the agonizing doubt, the betrayals, and the furtive movements back into the game, all wrapped up in the enchanting inner world of Stephane’s dream life.

From the opening scene in a cardboard TV studio where our comic hero explains how dreams work, to the final scene where he and his ladylove ride off on her toy pony into their cotton and cellophane sunset, Gondry moves us deftly back and forth between Stephens dream world reactions to his daily work and love tribulations and the real world activities of his waking life. With funny, inventive and beautifully realized flights of giddy fantasy, Gondry weaves the real and imagined together with absolute charm and allows us to sail along with these two lovers.

Dianne Lawrence is an artist, writer, and film critic living in Hollywood. You can learn more about her works here.

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