Wait a second. What you see above is not a painting of Michelangelo or Rembrandt. It’s a scene of “Waking Life”, an animated film that is made by a rotoscope process of live action. Each frame of live action shoot is redrawed and stylized by a team of artists, so that you will see an imaginative yet surrealistic image of real event. Have you seen “A Scanner Darkly”? “Waking Life” is quite similar to it, compared for the style of image-producing.
But for the story, I’m not really sure how I am supposed to describe it. I myself would like to say that “Waking Life” is half-documentary, as it mostly talks and interviews many people about a topic. “Waking Life” centers on a main character (played by Wiley Wiggins), which we don’t have any clue about his name till the end of the movie, who goes around his dream in a stance called Lucid Dream. In that condition, he goes here-and-there, meets many people, and has conversations about dream and life. Viewers are served with a rich material of philosophy, social culture, and (sometimes) science, as the main character walks his journey of dream. The boundary between real life and dream is apparently subtle, so through the whole duration, you will ask if the scene was a dream or a reality.
Funny, I get more interested in each animated scene, which is beautiful. It is well-created, and artistic. However, the stylization of live action maybe a little bit disturbing for the viewer’s eyes, as the scenes are so shaky. I just can’t wonder if I see “Waking Life” on big screen: I could have a dizziness around my head. This shaky, non-still picture shot-style gives a constant motion along the film. Maybe it’s regarding to the dream-like feeling, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much.
"They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn't you say the same thing about life?" -- A Man
About the plot, I will say that “Waking Life” is a total random film. It has no fix plot, no conflict-climax-anticlimax-twist sequences whatsoever (like in a normal plot), so much random event, and no fix character (except the main character that Wiley portrayed). If you are looking for a good story in this film, you won’t find it. Nevertheless, “Waking Life” contains plenty of fresh knowledges, ideas, and thoughts. “Waking Life” goes so philosophical that average viewers won’t enduringly stay on their seats watching this film from the beginning to the very end.
If you consider yourself as a “thinker” watcher, “Waking Life” will amuse you so much. The topic of dream develops into deep conversations about existentialism, consciousness, free will, logics, metaphysics, posthumanity, and even politics. Some American philosophers and writers are also mixed up with the cast, as they appeared as those who were interviewed by the main character. It seems that Richard Linklater, the director and writer of this film, tried hard to make a perfect “lecture” of life-philosophy in a package named film. And I really appreciate that.
“Waking Life” is another one-of-a-kind film. Also, it becomes another film that cannot be consumed for all viewers. I’m pretty sure that if you are one of those average viewers, you will dress this film down. But if you’re a philosophy geek, you will love this film so much. Me? Well, I did felt sleepy (twice!) along the movie (I still endured the first sleepiness but I couldn’t stand for the second :D), but objectively, “Waking Life” is cool. With an achievement for how it is made (regardless the shaky style that I don’t enjoy) and the original theme of dreams, “Waking Life” is outstandingly remarkable.
DETAILS & CREDITS
WAKING LIFE | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2001 MPAA Rated R for language and some violent images GENRE Animation, Drama RUNTIME 99 mins CAST Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan WRITER Richard Linklater DIRECTOR Richard Linklater AWARDS Best Animated Film New York Film Critics Circle Award, another 4 wins & 14 nominations BUDGET/GROSS n.a. / $2,892,011 (USA per 28 Apr 2002) IMDB RATING 7.5/10 METASCORE 82/100 (Universal Acclaim) TOMATOMETER 80% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO