WAKING LIFE, which premiered at Sundance and was screened at the 2001
New York Film Festival, must rank as the trippiest animated movie since Disney's
FANTASIA -- one that captures the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. For those
who aren't quite in the know, a lucid dream is one in which you have
consciousness that you are asleep and in an altered reality.
For some, WAKING LIFE will appear to be a random series of unrelated
scenes in which the characters (none of whom have names) discuss such
profundities as existentialism and reincarnation.Director Richard Linklater hit
on an intriguing manner of creating this unique feature. Using a digital camera,
he quickly shot live actors in the various scenes, assembled the footage into
a film and then turned the material over to Bob Sabiston who had developed
the animation software that was used. A team of more than 30 artists (including
lead actor Wiley Wiggins) then spent nine months "painting" over each scene
creating the film's one-of-a-kind visuals.
While it begins with two small children playing a game (one of whom is
the director's daughter who gets to utter "dream is destiny," arguably one of
the film's themes), WAKING LIFE centers on the unnamed sleeper (Wiggins,
who was featured in the director's DAZED AND CONFUSED and here takes
what is essentially a passive role and invests it with confidence and brio) who
experiences the various oddities in the film. It is impossible to capture the
mood of the piece in words. This is one motion picture that must be seen
(and perhaps more than once) to fully appreciate its breadth and scope.
The animation is amazing, with scenes literally pulsating with life and
color. (This may be a problem for those for whom handheld camera work
creates distress.) Mixing a cast of seasoned pros (including Julie Delpy and
Ethan Hawke who both starred in Linklater's film BEFORE SUNRISE) and relative
novices (Sabiston's landlady, a philosophy professor of the director's, etc.),
WAKING LIFE could easily be dismissed as nothing more than a stunt, a series
of talking heads dealing with deep topics. But that doesn't do justice to the
filmmakers' visions, as Linklater and Sabiston have managed to craft a strange,
curious and entertaining feature. WAKING LIFE is perhaps the best
approximation of what a real dream is.
Special mention also has to be made of the lilting, haunting musical
score composed by Glover Gill and performed by the local Austin, Texas group
Tosca Tango Orchestra. It is the perfect accompaniment for a trip into this
altered state, one I would hope that many will be willing to make.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images
Running time: 99 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.