The Science of Sleep, a playful romantic fantasy set inside the topsy-turvy brain of Stephane Miroux (Gael Garcia Bernal) an eccentric young man whose dreams constantly invade his waking life. Stephane pines for next-door neighbor, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but she becomes confused by his childishness and shaky connection to reality. Unable to find the secret to Stephanie's heart while awake, Stephane searches for the answer in his dreams.
The French magician and director Georges Méliès was arguably the first master of special effects, filling the silent movie houses of the early 20th century with camera trickery that stunned and delighted audiences. A century later, Michel Gondry works very much in the spirit of his artistic predecessor and countryman, creating films and music videos that feel just as hand-crafted and visually fantastical. The Science of Sleep
concerns the flirtations and misunderstandings of Stéphane (Gael García Bernal, Babel
), an aspiring visual artist, and Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, 21 Grams
), his Parisian neighbor who creates whimsical sculptures from cotton balls and felt. As Stéphane toils in a caustic office for a company that makes calendars, he retreats into his dreams and finds them increasingly hard to distinguish from reality, and vice-versa. The Science of Sleep
is a trilingual film, with dialogue spoken in French, English, and Spanish by characters who are very much global citizens, crossing boundaries of consciousness as easily as they cross boundaries of culture. Gondry decorates his love story with deliberately low-tech special effects, including cellophane made to look like bath water and a subconscious television studio constructed largely of corrugated cardboard. This is filmmaking with all the seams and stitches exposed, an appreciation for the patent falseness of films that nonetheless transport and enchant us. It's dreamy. --Ryan Boudinot