Waking Life

Waking Life, the latest film from director Richard Linklater (The Newton Boys, Suburbia) is less a film and more series of conversations. It takes place within the confines of a dream, where ideas reverberate between people and things make sense while making no sense. This is a film that requires people to pay acute attention to what the actors say on screen. The experience is like listening to people debating philosophy on a college campus. However, the first attention grabber is the animation. Waking Life is a gorgeous film. Linklater filmed the movie on digital camera, then used a team of over thirty animators to animate the film. Each animator was responsible for a character, giving a sense of consistency to each person while providing a huge sense of stylistic diversity between segments. Since this is animation, it allows the freedom to express ideas not just verbally, but visually.

There is some impressive imagery in Waking Life. Especially outdoor scenes. The streets, lamps, and buildings will all sway independently of each other, creating an almost queasy feeling to the proceedings. It makes the main character's (Wiley Wiggins, Plastic Utopia, The Faculty) bizarre trip even more surreal and dreamlike. There is no plot per se, he wanders from conversation to conversation, getting hit by a car, floating in the sky, and above all, learning. Still, first and foremost, Waking Life is a beautiful film to watch. Much of the art borders on the impressionistic, giving the film the kind of look one would expect in a dream state. One man's head turns into a gear, another woman's explanation on love materializes next to her head. Wiggins' character moves from one conversation to the next.

And what conversations they are. It sometimes feels as if a primer and notepad were necessary to fully comprehend all of the ideas flying across the screen. Linklater throws out concepts from such diverse people as Satre, D.H. Lawrence, Philip K. Dick, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Plato, and any number of other prominent philosophers. The main topic of discussion is dreams. How to control dreams, realizing one is in a dream appear, as do other topics on individuality, reincarnation, and any number of concepts and ideas. At some times these quick lessons on philosophy border on the pretentious, and at others they are absolutely fascinating. The combination of the heady information and the animation makes Waking Life all the more compelling. However, there will most likely be two reactions to this film. One will be rapt attention, and the other utter boredom. Individual reaction will probably hinge on one's tolerance towards exposition.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R for language and some violent images.

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