The Science of Sleep
By Mansha Tandon.
Stephane Miroux has an obscure artistic idea: a “disasterology calendar” in which each month is accompanied by a gaudy, child-like pictorial reproduction of a grizzly disaster. His colleagues at the Parisian novelty calendar company where he works are distinctly unimpressed with his colourful drawings of burning planes and earthquakes. Chances are, if the disasterology calendar doesn’t float your boat, nor will this film.
Bernal is remarkably adept (and of course, exquisitely gorgeous) as the chronically shy, whimsical Stephane, a graphic designer of French and Mexican heritage. His mother, who promises to place him in a ‘creative’ job, lures him away from Mexico back to his childhood home in Paris. He develops an ardent passion for his neighbour, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of Serge), who is at once both charmed and repulsed by his eccentric, infantile behaviour. Gainsbourg gives a restrained but natural performance as the slightly idiosyncratic neighbour who is torn by the fluctuating intensity of her feelings.
Stephane has an extremely active dream life, in which he stars in his own show, Stephane TV. His inability to often distinguish between reality and the subconscious populates the already experimental canvas of this film with vividly quirky imagery. Cardboard cars, paper construction sets, and sketchy animation create a striking visual montage as the film dips and swings between the surreal and normal.
Michel Gondry bares his soul to the world with this largely autobiographical, fantastical film: Stephane lives in the same building where Gondry spent his time as a struggling artist for a calendar company. The film plays out the director’s innermost thoughts on the complexity of love, relationships, and dreams in a jumpy, self-deprecating fashion. While the story can be saccharine at times, there are enough inventive, breathtakingly unusual moments to forgive its occasional sentimental twists.
Gondry’s third foray into filmmaking is understandably fraught with high expectations: the spectacular success of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (in which he brought Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay to life) seems almost insurmountable. Perhaps that is why The Science of Sleep appears to be such an act of rebellion – it is a messy, haphazard, confounding concoction of elements that blatantly disregards narrative, form, and function – but ultimately triumphs with its profound originality.