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:: Waking Life

Made by shooting live actors on video and then painting over them to create a hybrid of animation and live action that has not been seen before, Waking Life is visually stunning. Unfortunately, much as I loved looking at the pictures, I wished I could drown out the sound.

Waking Life follows in the tradition of The Sixth Sense, which I blame for the existence of Vanilla Sky and Mulholland Drive. The main character, Wiley Wiggins (Dazed and Confused) could be dreaming, or he could be dead, or he could be in the few minutes of brain activity before death. He doesn’t know, and we never find out. Characters, sometimes talking to him, sometimes in scenes that have nothing to do with him at all, talk about philosophical concepts, the nature of human existence and so on and so on, some of these characters are reprisals of previous characters in Linklater’s films, for instance Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke seem to be continuing a conversation from Before Sunrise. Even Richard Linklater makes an appearance, once to recount a dream of his own, which as anyone who’s ever had to listen to other people’s dreams knows, is rarely interesting for anyone except the dreamer. There is no plot as such; it is rather a loosely connected series of potted philosophy lectures.

Whilst there is much to applaud about this film, its bold experimentation, gorgeous animation and its all too rare assumption that its audience is not stupid, it is unfortunately an unsuccessful film. One scene, which Wiley himself watches on a cinema screen, has two characters discussing film, posing that film is not a literary medium. It should not be tied down to a script; rather it should capture the specific people (i.e. the actors portraying specific people) in their specific situations. There was also something in there about film being God, or capturing God, or God embodies film, but I was a bit dazed and confused myself by that point.

Linklater began shooting in 1999 and each minute of footage required approximately 250 hours of animation. It’s a pity a couple of hours weren’t re-routed into working on a story.
What is life? What is time? It takes years of study to even understand how to pose those questions, let alone to come close to answers. Coming out of this film, the audience is no closer, but certainly, ninety-seven minutes older.

Screening at Cinema Nova