THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP
(La Science des Rêves)
The Science of Sleep engages us in the wacky, playful surrealism that characterises much of Michel Gondrys work. You could see this present in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, although it was much more constrained within Charlie Kaufmans screenplay. If there is any film one could compare The Science of Sleep to it would be to liken it to the French directing duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet who made Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995) between them. Maybe Caro and Jeunet having been let loose on a remake of Rene Clairs Beauties of the Night (1952).
The Science of Sleep comes with a wonderfully akilter nuttiness. Michel Gondry tosses up all manner of eccentrically surreal images in the dream scenes Gael Garcia Bernal trying to work with a pair of hands the size of easy chairs; he flying Superman-like over a series of two-dimensional dioramas of the city; a giant spider typing on a typewriter; dreams of Bernal being on a clay and wool animated ski slope and finding himself sinking into the ice only to wake up and find that he has been sleeping with his feet in a refrigerator compartment; chases in cars made of cardboard; as well as waking gags with Bernal trying to play notes on a piano that causes tufts of cotton wool to float through the air like little miniature clouds; or the wonderful ongoing joke about The One Second Time Machine, which may or may not work. Gondry frequently experiments with effects like clay and wool stop-motion animation and has real objects like horses and vehicles made to seem unreal by being coated with cardboard paste-overs. There is an hilarious sequence blurring between dream and waking where Gael Garcia Bernal leaves a message about asking for Emma de Caunes phone number under Charlotte Gainsbourgs door.
One of the funniest aspects of the film is the subtitling and the mix of dialogue, which blurs at any one moment between French, English and occasionally Spanish. Gondry has dizzying fun playing with mistranslations and puns indeed, one has never seen a film before where the subtitling of dialogue is played with such funny regard.
Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg (who looks positively anorexic) and the cheerfully smutty Alain Chabat all give appealingly likeable performances. However, the real star that shines over everyone else and almost every other aspect of the film is the directorial sparkle of Michel Gondry. It is Gondry who gives us a film that is packed to the gills and overflowing with wit, invention and a good-natured bawdiness. A more traditional American director would have turned The Science of Sleep into a daffy romantic comedy (no doubt starring Sandra Bullock) and thrown out the surreal gags to make a more clear-cut film. Gondry contrarily leaves the narrative ragged or more to the point twists it in and out of dream and around itself so frequently and with so many surreal gags and nutty conversations in every corner that it becomes his visual invention that rides supreme over all other considerations. The line of surreal and real, waking and dream is blurred so much so that one frequently never knows what is what at any one time. The only way to take the film is not to try and make any sense out of it but rather to go with Michel Gondrys eccentric dream logic and enjoy The Science of Sleep for exactly that.