Just by looking at the picture above, it is very clear that Waking Life is not your typical film. Everything from its look to its plot, to its characters are radically different than any film I have seen in a while. In fact, after watching Waking Life I’m not sure if it is correct to classify it as movie/film without using major clarifications. Waking Life is in reality a long philosophical journey that covers all aspects of life and dreams. It is built around the lucid dreams of the main character, whose name and back story we don’t know, but mainly he is a vehicle for the viewer to experience many conversations about what life, reality, and dreams have to do with real life. Through in the fact that Waking Life was overdrawn and has varying levels of animation quality the film can sometimes be a little more different than it needs to be. However, it has a lot of interesting things to say about philosophy, science, and general life topics which makes it a worthwhile film to view.
I won’t even try to describe the plot for you since it really isn’t all that important, but I feel like some explanation for the cell shaded look of the film is in order. Waking Life was actually shot normally using digital video, but Richard Linklater (yes the same guy who did Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) decided to have artists digitally draw shapes and colors over the frame, giving it a pseudo-animated look. This is the same type of look used in the film A Scanner Darkly, but in this film the quality and consistency of the animation is very varied. It is tough to describe the overall look in the film without having seen it, but here are two images that give an example of the varied look the movie has.
This technique is called rotoscoping, and while it can be somewhat distracting at times, it provides a dream look that keeps the film grounded in its themes. It also allows for Linklater to use fluid transitions and on-screen animations to emphasize some of the more “out there” theories and actions used in the film. It”s a very unique way to visually present the movie and it wouldn’t work for most films, but Waking Life isn’t like most films. It keeps you in a dreamlike and somewhat confused mindset throughout and the rotoscoping technique only heightens this distance from normal reality the film attempts to create.
The plot is just as scattered as the aesthetics, but Waking Life covers a wide variety of interesting topics and theories. From telescopic evolution to “The Holy Moment” to talks about hitchhiking, the film covers a random assortment of crazy topics. Some of them did move a little too far into philosophical theory, but overall Waking Life is a film that will constantly make you think. That means it isn’t necessarily the best date movie, but it could generate some interesting conversation topics if viewed with company. Ultimately though, Waking Life is a worthwhile film because it accentuates the individual experience. The variety of topics and opinions can be interpreted many different ways and the nice thing about Waking Life is that Richard Linklater doesn’t push the viewer to accept any of the viewpoints he expresses. The film merely presents various theories and allows the viewer to digest them at his own discretion. It’s a far cry from the artificial emotion usually created in movies, which allows it to be a much more rewarding film to watch. While watching Waking Life I took by far the most notes I have on any film, but in hindsight there were merely aspects of the film that I found interesting, and not any technical or thematic revelations. I figured I would spare you from them since the point of Waking Life is to take from it what you want. However, I would definitely urge you to watch this film and take some notes of your own.
Up Next: I head back to normalcy and watch the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid.