May 25, 2007

The Science Of Sleep

The Science Of Sleep is the latest film by Michel Gondry. His previous effort "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" was to my eyes a near masterpiece. A contemplation on love lost and found, it was heartbreakingly tender and highly original. Now whilst his new film has its moments it does not reach the same heights. Essentially it tells the story of Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), who returns from Mexico to live in his childhood home in Paris after the death of his father. Stephane is an artist with a hugely vivid imagination. Unfortunately his mother places him in the employment of a company that produces calendars. Stephane feels frustrated by his inability to put his creative talents to work in this environment. His frustration mounts when he meets and then becomes infatuated by his neighbour Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Unfortunately Stephanie, a wildly creative person herself, does not reciprocate his feelings. This is, in a nutshell, basically the story of the film. It is mainly concerned with images, ruminations on life and the interactions of the characters in the film. In fact a lot the film takes place in Stephane's dreams (including his own fictional TV show) and sometimes you are never sure what is real and what is not. Whilst never being totally confusing I found it tended to sometimes give you a disconnection from the characters. This movie was also written by Gondry and maybe that is the slight weakness. "Eternal Sunshine..." was the work of genius writer Charlie Kaufmann and I think he is definitely more adept at hitting all the right emotional highpoints and never letting the fantastic stray too far away from the realistic. Having that said The Science Of Sleep is still a highly original work that manages to stay mostly entertaining throughout. Gondry's images are strikingly original and Bernal and Gainsbourg are charming in the lead roles. This film is more of a charmer that gently entertains than one that pierces a deep hole in your heart.


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