Seldom has a film lived up to its title as much as Richard Linklater”s “Waking Life.” Through the analysis and questioning of life, dreams and the relationship of the two, a new sense of vitality and appreciation for life is achieved. Every once and a while, there is that rare film that takes you outside of yourself for a couple hours and inspires introspection on the life you are leading. If you walk around complacently, going through your daily actions without consideration, then this film is just what you need. One of the film”s topics is that of sleepwalking and the reverse idea of life-walking. Sleeping through your life without asking questions of the nature of the universe or the possibility of an afterlife will not be possible after a viewing of this film “Waking Life” violently shakes you from a sleep-like life of monotony and reminds you that the search for knowledge by asking questions is what makes us human and what makes life so exciting.
Previews for “Waking Life” show its amazing visual composition but do not hint too much at its actual focus and “story.” It will be this innovative animation that attracts viewers and then attains their attention as the film starts. “Waking Life” has been made by filming all the compulsory scenes and then digitally animating them in a process called rotoscoping. This creates a semi-realistic image of characters moving and talking like real people while their images and the surroundings constantly move and shake due to the animation effects. It is at once startling, nauseous and beautiful. Each image could be a painting out of Picasso”s or Dali”s own gallery. It takes a lot to divert attention from such beautiful frames, and “Waking Life” wisely does not use a standard plot structure. Linklater has crafted a similarly creative structure for the film that equals the animation in its transcendence and innovation of the art of film.
Our guide through this journey of life and lucid dreams is a no-named protagonist played (voiced) by Wiley Wiggins (“Dazed and Confused”).
Wiggins” character wanders around in a dream that he struggles to comprehend or control. The dream takes him from conversation to conversation on topics that range from political action to the chemical composition of man. He flows in and out of these strange scenarios, sometimes just observing other people”s conversations. Some dialogues are very “heavy” and come too fast for you to take in, let alone comprehend. But this is OK it is not always what they say that is important as much as how passionately they say it. Trying to understand the world around us is an impossible goal, but this unattainable search can still be worthwhile.
Featuring cameos by Steven Soderbergh as well as Linklater regulars Ethan Hawke, Julie Delply, Adam Goldberg and even Linklater himself, “Waking Life” has an almost never-ending doorway of new characters and topics. Each comes with their own views and perceptions and also new animation tricks to visually convey the ideas they share.
Many will write off “Waking Life,” either because they cannot stand the dizzying animation or due to ultra-philosophical dialogue. However, those in search of a new, exciting film experience have found it here. Linklater once again proves to be a very capable director of the highest caliber. He is able to craft purely enjoyable features like “Dazed and Confused” and “Newton Boys,” but is also incredibly adept at more serious pictures such as “Slacker” and “Before Sunrise.” On this occasion, Linklater produced a refreshing and stimulating film simply by showcasing the beauty of ideas and the unknown.