The Science of Sleep. Gael García Bernal and Charlotte
Gainsbourg star in a film written and directed by Michel
Reviewed by Josef Woodard
Among all media, cinema is best suited
to aspire to dream states, and Michel Gondry is among the current
filmmakers most likely to go there. That much we knew from his
wild, non-linear but sweet collaboration with screenwriter Charlie
Kaufman in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In The Science of
Sleep, Gondry goes into an even deeper sleep, or at least a
different flavor of dream state, which shares many qualities of
Eternal Sunshine, and something new to boot.
We meet our confused protagonist Stéphane (the ever game and
charismatic Gael García Bernal) on the cardboard set of a talk
show — in his dreams. A Mexican who heads to Paris after his
father’s death, Stéphane lands a lame job in the calendar trade,
but mostly fends off friendly-ish demons and the unpredictable
blend of dreams and reality.
For all its craziness, shifts of consciousness, stylistic
twists, and charmingly disorienting insertions of pixilation and
cardboard fantasies, what keeps the film grounded is that ol’ love
thing. Stéphane has fallen for Stéphanie, his enigmatic and
commitment-shy neighbor across the hall, played by Charlotte
Gainsbourg (daughter of the late French iconoclast Serge Gainsbourg
and Jane Birkin). “Why me?” she asks at one of her points of
frustration. “Because everybody else is boring,” Stéphane replies.
Now that’s true love.
It seems that Gondry’s love is to play with language, both the
language of film and the world of words, and he helps coat his film
in pleasant confusion by freely mixing three languages. If the film
catches on in any cult way, which it might, two new mutant words
may enter the vernacular — “disasterology” and “schizometric”
— both of which somehow help explain the state of things in the
film and in Stéphane’s experience.
“In dreams, emotions are overwhelming,” Stéphane says at one
point. Actually, the opposite is often true, as we find ourselves
accepting irrationality and leaving judgment at home. The same can
be said of Science. As this film’s dizzying points of reference
seduce us into acceptance, we surrender and enjoy the wild