The Movie Binge

Review: The Science of Sleep


I am looking at my notes for this movie, the sometimes intelligible scratch that results from writing in a dark theater. They're rather scattered. Every time I get going on a topic it gets chopped up. There's "fever dream" next to "purple suit" next to "Stephane TV" next to "full of shit," and so forth. Some of it meshes, most doesn't, but it hardly matters, because I remember what kept me rapt throughout The Science of Sleep kept. It was the act of interpreting the dreamy logic populating. Messages that are felt rather than understood.

Stephane, as played by Gael García Bernal, returns to his childhood home in Paris after his father's death. An artist he comes with the idea that he has a plum creative job waiting for him, courtesy of his mother. When he finds it's a rather dull layout job for a seasonal calendar, he puts most of his creative energy into the courtship of his neighbor Stephanie, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

She becomes a major character in his dreams, affirming his love. The co-workers and family members assume lesser roles—the cops, janitors, and sidemen in his waking and dreaming amorous efforts.

The Science of Sleep gives equal credence to all parts of Stephane's life, family, work, love and dreams. In a state of arrested development, Stephane is browbeaten by all tasks requiring responsbility. He dreams to escape, but sometimes his problems follow him into his fantasies.

Technically amazing, the tricks and waves of imagniation make the film more than a quirky tale of doomed romance. They make it precious. The arts and crafts fantasies are intentions unsullied by others' interpretations. This is what makes The Science of Sleep so bittersweet. The viewer can feel what Stephane desires, and then see those hopes falter in the face of reality.

The last, and most heartbreaking, dream sequence laid a wreath of silence on the entire theater in a matter of seconds. I can't remember the last time that happened. Please see this movie.