Waking Life – 2001

Waking.Life.2001.720p.BluRay.X264-AMIABLE-005Back in 2001 Richard Linklater, sometime between Before Sunrise and School of Rock (must say, I did not expect that on his filmography) made an animated essay about dreaming. There is really no succinct way to speak about this film.

The animation is entirely digital, overlaid onto the previously existing live action. At times it is so accurate as to be uncanny, at others it’s a blur shape and colour. Throughout the film sections of the screen move independently of each other despite logically being fixed spaces. The dreamscape is very powerful but after a while you accept it as real, it stops looking odd for things to be permanently moving. The film moves from person to person: characters, celebrities, characters in other films and even Linklater himself. In turn they share their philosophical perspectives. It’s easy to discount many of these speeches; an angry prisoner, a couple engaging in pillow talk or a group of angry teenagers seem irrelevant and stupid compared to professional philosophers and scientists. As the film wears on it becomes more apparent that every opinion is valid, the absence of jargon doesn’t make the child’s origami fortune teller or the angry rambling less significant. Every one of these people is discussing freedom, dreams and destiny in their own terms. They say very different things between them.

It seems as if every single viewer would get a different message from this film, like some kind of confirmation bias. The views you agree with stick around and further your thoughts. The questions raised vary widely: Is there life after death? Is life all a dream? Does society hold us back? Does time even exist? What is the purpose of cinema? Like all good works of art these questions don’t get answered, at least, not definitively. Most of the characters offer at least one answer or opinion but in the end it’s up to the viewer and the protagonist to think these thing on their own.

All together it feels like falling into someone’s collection of newspaper clips and meaningful quotes and trying pull the common strands of thought out of the pattern that emerges. There’s no traditional narrative, the narrative comes from you as you link the characters and their words with your thoughts and with other films and culture. The whole thing is packed full of references, many of them to other Linklater films but many more that just show glimpses of a moment that reminds you of something else. The experience will build with each new viewing and it feels as if this is a piece to be re-worked and responded to, not to be holed up and revered as a complete work.

  • Entertainment: 3/5
  • Artistic: 4/5
  • Intellectual: 5/5

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