by Eric D. Snider
Released: October 19, 2001
"Waking Life" is an unusual and intriguing film full of philosophy and social theories. It's the sort of thing goateed, coffee-sipping college students tend to like, and the sort of thing film buffs are often impressed by.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, the movie is about an unnamed young man (played by Wiley Wiggins) who awakens from a dream only to discover he's still dreaming. Then he wakes up again, this time for real ... except no, wait, he's actually still dreaming. He can't escape the dream world, because maybe the dream world IS the real world, or maybe someone else is dreaming him, or maybe we're all just the dream of someone living in 50 A.D. (among other theories presented over the course of the film).
Whoa, dude. Trippy.
But I have placed too much emphasis on the plot, which I shouldn't do, because plot is the very last thing focused on in the movie. As the boy wanders around, he encounters a variety of people who share their philosophies with him. Some of these ideas are highly interesting to listen to; others are not, which is where you might tune out for a minutes. Come back, though, because if you don't care for what's being said now, whatever happens in the next scene is bound to be more up your alley.
The movie was filmed first, then animated on top of it. As a result, people look like real people, even as backgrounds and inanimate objects sometimes behave unrealistically. The animation is more than an expensive gimmick, though. It effectively conveys a sense of being both realistic and fantastic, just like a dream. We're not able to grasp "reality" any more than the protagonist is, because even though everything takes place in the world we're familiar with, it seems detached from it, too. It's rather beautiful, in a way.
A few celebrities appear as unnamed philosophers, Ethan Hawke and Steven Soderbergh among them. One suspects they were eager to be involved in a project so thought-provoking and unique. Viewers will be just as glad to have seen it.
Rated R, some outbursts of harsh profanity and
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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