The Science of Sleep

Stuck in Dreamworld

September 5, 2006By Heidi EllisonFilm

The new film, the first Gondry has both scripted and directed, stars that young actor the camera (and the audience) just loves, Gael Garcia Bernal. Oozing charm and boyish good looks as usual, he romps his way through this film as a naïve young half-Mexican guy, Stéphane, whose French mother lures him to Paris by claiming that she has found him a job as an illustrator.

The job turns out to be not at all what it was cracked up to be, but it provides an excuse to introduce some wacky co-workers (notably Alain Chabat as Guy) and provide a brilliant portrait of a small French business, a producer of tacky promotional calendars for companies, that is stuck in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, Stéphane is stuck in his childhood. He sleeps in his boyhood bed and believes that people can connect in their dreams, which is just what happens with his next-door neighbor, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young woman who is also in touch with her inner child but is slightly more mature than the playful, babyish (he cries a lot) Stéphane.

The Science of Sleep is full of fun, fantasy, poetry, romance, color, creativity and crazy antics, but in the end the charm seems forced. The logic that should underpin the idea of two people connecting in their dreams gets lost, and so does the audience, wondering what is supposed to have really happened and what happened only in Stéphane’s dream world. And, although much of the film is played for laughs, it elicits surprisingly few from the audience. All the elements are there – great idea, actors, cinematography, props, music, etc. – but this scientific experiment fizzles in the end.

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