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The Science of Sleep (2006)

Art House & International movie directed by Michel Gondry

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Oh, Michel Gondry. How I love you so.

  • Feb 1, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

Michel Gondry's "The Science of Sleep" is a surrealist's joint. This film is damn good proof that Gondry shall forevermore be a talented filmmaker, even with his several career turns (for the worse, as his most recent film, "The Green Hornet", may suggest). Perhaps the best directors are those who have had their days and then their failures. The Coen Brothers, for example, would not be so memorable if it had not been for the several mediocre films and the even more common incredible productions they have carried out. I'm not saying that Gondry is any Coen; I'm just saying that there's really no reason (yet) to doubt just how great of a filmmaking Michel Gondry is. Gondry seems to be embracing his visual gifts in "The Science of Sleep", which is amongst of the most visually fascinating films I have ever seen. Gondry decided to write this film as well as direct it, and surprisingly he's got some good hooks and ideas going on here. Occasionally his script can go a little downhill, but it gets right back up quickly enough for me to still love it in the end. As with the mass majority of Michel Gondey's productions, this film's messy beauty may not appeal to all, but its simple enough for most people to get lost in it. There are some good story-telling, characters, and visual finesse to be found here, and artistically, Gondry's film is chock-full of surprises. This is the kind of weird film that I can see myself falling in love with, and in ways, "The Science of Sleep" puts its flaws to unnaturally good use. The fact that it shows the wonder and consequences of lucid dreaming is something that I find quite brilliant and coincidentally, "The Science of Sleep" is quite special as a film. This may not be flawless, but I had a lot of fun whilst watching it. Definitely one of 2006's better, if not best, films. If you can appreciate Gondry's flamboyantly weird and joyously uneven beauty, then I strongly recommend you watch "The Science of Sleep". It's a great film; but perhaps it's another one of Gondry's films that will someday get a cult status due to its almost complete lack of wide appeal. You somewhat have to know how personal this film was to Gondry as well as how much effort he put into it. If you put that in to consideration, then you will probably love or at least like this film. Take it as you will; it's not a film for everyone. But I must say: it's quite rewarding.

Stephane is a lucid dreamer who creates fantastical worlds out of his surrealistic visions. For years he has found pleasure only in dreaming, although for the first time in his life, he may have found something else worth living for. Stephane moves to his childhood home and meets a woman living next door whom he starts a romantic/friendship-like relationship with. The two both enjoy inventing, and the lady likes hearing of Stephane's incredible dream-stories. But Stephane has been living in a dream-world for too long, and often times does things and says things that break the line between dream and reality. He might as well be living a dream. The conflicts of the story are Stephane's inability to tell dream from reality, and his complicated relationship with the woman living next-door. Stephane can be shy at times and outgoing in other instances; which is never a good mix if you're a guy like him. I could relate to Stephane on some levels, and I think the film kind of worked better that way. Most of the highlights of the film include Gondry's embedded visual beauty; although this is by no means a poorly written story. A little flawed, perhaps, but engaging none the less. I don't like to think of it as merely a "love story" or a drama". Perhaps it is a mix of both, but with a little classic surrealism thrown in there. This is one of the few modern surrealistic gems; a film which will most likely blow you away whether you like it or not. This is unlike anything I've ever seen, and last time I checked, when such a statement is made, it's a damn good thing. But that's just based on "the last time I checked". Maybe things have changed.

Gael Garcia Bernal's performance is absolutely absorbing. His timid, shy character is completely worth following, and I think Bernal's performance is unique on its own. There's stuff in store for Mr. Bernal, and I think most of it is good. He works well with his co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays the woman across the hall. Both actors put on genuinely respectable performances, and they have some good chemistry going. These two individuals might as well be the only major actors in the film, but the supporting cast is also fairly unique. Some of the minor characters were actually fun to watch due to the efforts of the actors portraying them. This is a well-acted film, as are most of Michel Gondry's features. It comes to no surprise that those in the leading roles are as fantastic as they are.

When it comes down to what I loved so much about "The Science of Sleep", I discuss the visual impact the film had on me. This is by far the most visually complex film by Michel Gondry; equally as trippy as "Eternal Sunshine" and equally as gripping when it comes to style. While not as emotionally complex as the latter, "The Science of Sleep" is an all-around fantastic film. Seemingly out of thin air, Gondry has created an absolutely beautiful visual masterpiece. This joy-filled cinematic acid trip is worth taking if you can endure the uneasiness that may come with it. Like a real acid trip, "The Science of Sleep" is confusing, uneven, and very, very personal. The imagery in the film is more fantastic than it is nightmarish; and it's the kind that Gondry is so good at thinking up. A film such as this can so easily be impressive on a visual level, but the fact that it's also touching, romantic, and unique makes "The Science of Sleep" even more of a winner. While "Eternal Sunshine" has a wide appeal, "The Science of Sleep" most certainly does not. I would indeed recommend this film, although not to everyone. You need to dig deep into the mind of Gondry to really get this film, and it's not the kind that you will cry over once you've absorbed all its contents. "The Science of Sleep" exists for nothing more than Gondry's signature visual eye candy, and it delivers as only an admirably indulgent film should. Take the ticket if you feel like the ride will be rewarding, because in many cases, it probably will be. This film is great in my opinion, and I think I appreciated it for what it was; a true Michel Gondry film. Some say the man has been getting worse as time goes on, but I sure as hell am NOT complaining. I liked watching this entertaining visual film. It is one meant to be seen and heard rather than told. It may not be flawless, but it sure was fascinating.

While at times Gondry's style may feel a bit overwhelming for some, "The Science of Sleep" is the rare film that makes use aware of the sheer power of dreams. This is a moving portrayal of a man who dreams so much to the point where they inhabit his every-day life, and while I stare at the man in fascination, I also am thankful that I don't have to suffer through a similar psychological duel. Such visual brilliance can only be met with praise from my side of the table, and "The Science of Sleep" sure fits the bill as "visually stunning". I like Gondry and I think he is quite talented; I just wish he could always make films like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and even "The Science of Sleep". This is, thus far, Gondry's second best film. There's something that I really enjoyed about it, and it did indeed go beyond the visual flare. Such fascination is obvious; and most people will applaud the skill involved the world which Gondry creates. However, it is Gondry's style alone that just doesn't appeal with most people, but "The Science of Sleep" will none the less work well for some and not so well for others. It's quite the film indeed; just not one to be appreciated by just anybody. Do not watch the thing unless you have an open mind, since it requires such a thing. But getting lost in this kind of film is fun, and alas, you surrender your mind to Gondry's psychedelic genius. I conclude that while it's not a masterpiece of story-telling, "The Science of Sleep" is still a masterpiece of visualization. This is a great film, and I kind of loved the experience all-together. If you can look past the mess of story-telling, romance, and pretty visuals, then you will have a good time. You could even call the film inspirational, but that's only to me. This is a unique film. If you like other such films, then please watch this one. It requires you to give up your brain for an hour and forty five minutes, but at least then you can still look at Gondry's fantastic visual look. In a number of ways, this is a very underrated film. But maybe that's because not enough people could get into it. I can totally understand that, but expect me to like these kinds of films whenever they come along. "The Science of Sleep" is the kind of film that most will hope to like but alas may not enjoy themselves. It might even be called a cult film, and many will think about it. I wonder if we will dream about it too.

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More The Science of Sleep (2006) reviews
review by . March 25, 2007
This is a very European production. "The Science of Sleep" permeates with the viewer even more than "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind" did after its first viewing because its more impulsive and creative. Michel Gondry, now having three full-feature films under his belt, does penetrate the very core of our dreams, and somehow makes us believe that we can too.     In the beginning of this film we can clearly see that Stephane, played by the charming Gael Garcia Bernal, has problems …
review by . February 11, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
The French have a way with films that tinker with reality, fantasy, illusions, and delusions and the result of those traits have produced some of the most exciting and avant garde films ever made. Michel Gondry has inherited the mantle from Cocteau, Resnais, etc and runs with it in this charming little diversion of a film THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP.    Gondry is primarily a visual artist and tells his stories in a visual manner, but that is not to say his stories are superficial or …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


The French magician and director Georges Méliès was arguably the first master of special effects, filling the silent movie houses of the early 20th century with camera trickery that stunned and delighted audiences. A century later, Michel Gondry works very much in the spirit of his artistic predecessor and countryman, creating films and music videos that feel just as hand-crafted and visually fantastical.The Science of Sleepconcerns the flirtations and misunderstandings of Stéphane (Gael García Bernal,Babel), an aspiring visual artist, and Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg,21 Grams), his Parisian neighbor who creates whimsical sculptures from cotton balls and felt. As Stéphane toils in a caustic office for a company that makes calendars, he retreats into his dreams and finds them increasingly hard to distinguish from reality, and vice-versa.The Science of Sleepis a trilingual film, with dialogue spoken in French, English, and Spanish by characters who are very much global citizens, crossing boundaries of consciousness as easily as they cross boundaries of culture. Gondry decorates his love story with deliberately low-tech special effects, including cellophane made to look like bath water and a subconscious television studio constructed largely of corrugated cardboard. This is filmmaking with all the seams and stitches exposed, an appreciation for the patent falseness of films that nonetheless transport and enchant us. It's ...
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Director: Michel Gondry
DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
Runtime: 106 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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