Thursday, January 20

Movies You Should Totally See: Waking Life

Of all the things we experience in our lives, dreams have to be the most puzzling. We can figure out why we think something, and with some personal reflection we can discern why we feel something. But why we dream something is almost impossible to find out. And yet, our dreams seem to tell us a lot about ourselves. For as long as people have slept, dreams have been an endless source of fascination for poets, artists and philosophers, and filmmakers are no exception to that. Besides providing lazy screenwriters with a cheap twist ending (it was all a dream!), there have been many notable films about dreams (in the last decade alone there were The Science of Sleep, Mulholland Drive and Inception, to name a few). But what makes Waking Life so different from those movies is that it's not about dreams. It is a dream.

Although it has a very distinct visual style, Waking Life is first and foremost about people talking. Who these people are, or even where, doesn't seem to be relevant. We simply zoom in on their conversation, and leave when they're done, or when the moment is opportune. We move from interviews to monologues, from lectures to anecdotes. The topics are all over the place, but they're never trivial: society, consciousness, reality, life itself. These are conversations of the sort that you can only wish for most of the time: literate and out-of-the-box, with mutual interest. The dialogue is what keeps the movie going: there is almost nothing in the way of a plot. The dialogue itself is what matters, and it's bliss to listen to. Precisely because there is nothing to move towards, the dialogue never feels rushed or trying to prove something: it is simply moving at it's own pace. Sometimes we hear a 5-minute monologue followed by someone saying a single line, and both make equal impact.

The central figure amongst all this is the unnamed protagonist, played by Willy Wiggins. He talks, but mostly listens. It seems to be that we're exploring his dreamworld: we see him waking up several times in the movie, only to find out later that we're still in a dream. The movie seems deceptively complex: it's entirely possible that it's all set within a single dream. But this is not a puzzle movie. If you just allow the movie to overtake you, it will become a meditation, a shower of good ideas. And just when you think you have grasped what one speaker is saying, another has already taken his place. You won't be able to really ponder upon anything that happens. Instead, you will be made to think about life and the world in general in a way that can only be described as philosophical. The real depth is at the surface.

This is not a movie to explain. This is a movie to experience, talk about, inspire people and spark conversations. Many people will resist a movie that's not to be figured out, and resistance to this movie is like waking up from it. It renders it completely worthless. This is a movie for dreamers, people who are genuinely willing to dream. Like one of the characters in the movie says: "Things have been tough lately for dreamers". This movie feels like solace in hard times. It's one of the best dreams I've ever had.


This is called dream pop. 'nuf said.

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