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The Science of Sleep

aka - Science Des Reves, La
France 2006
Directed by
Michel Gondry
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
4 stars

The Science Of Sleep

Synopsis: A young man is lost between dream and reality, the real world and a stop-motion-created fantasy.

When so many films feel compromised in some way, the Science of Sleep feels like a wholly unrestrained dance through the unique visions of Michel Gondry.  This film almost makes Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind look conventional, yet the experimental vision helps, rather than hinders, the sweet yet hard-edged story of two artists falling in precarious love.

Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) moves back to Paris to take up a ‘creative’ job in design arranged by his mother, which turns out to involve sticking text on paper. Coming to terms with the death of his father, he finds the distinction between reality and his dreams increasingly hard to handle and many scenes are set in the cardboard box TV studio of his mind or surreal re-imaginings of his workplace. Meeting Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who lives in the next door flat, his dreams and life spiral in a confusion of love and imagined jealousies, fuelled by an equally swirly soundtrack.

Bernal and Gainsbourg are beautifully cast as the shyly creative duo whose minds just go ‘click-click’. Stéphanie at first gently teases Stéphane about his home-made craftwork inventions, but his ability to re-imagine reality is infectious. Before long, she too sees that the water from the tap is actually blue cellophane. And then is delighted with his one-second time machine; the film cleverly creating a shared illusion as Stéphanie travels one second into the past, or the future.

Despite this charming connection of minds and dreams, the film also skirts the dark edge of Stéphane’s paranoia and self-doubt. His dreams take a turn for the worse. Gondry says his own childhood nightmares feature in the scene where Stéphane’s hands grow to enormous size as he tries to stay on top of his tedious, fiddly job. Meanwhile, his eccentric colleagues give him unfailingly poor advice, particularly the replacement father-figure of sex-obsessed Guy (Alain Chabat).

If you’ve seen it, for once, the trailer for this film beautifully captures the essence of the science of dreams. Now go watch the film itself, dream it, love it.




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