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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Science of Sleep

    From the moment that we meet St’eacute;phane, who is played effortlessly by Gael Garc’iacute;a Bernal, we instantly fall in love with him. As he sets up the studio of his one man television show, which can only be a representation of his mind, we become acquainted with his strange fascination with thoughts and dreams.

    St’eacute;phane is the impossibly endearing protagonist of The Science of Sleep, an intense examination of the world that exists somewhere between reality and fantasy. The Science of Sleep is a creation of the mind of Michel Gondry, who is best known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In many ways the two films are similar in their exploration of the reflexive power that the mind can have over itself.

    The story follows St’eacute;phane, a young and imaginitive inventor, who moved from Mexico to France after his father passed away. There, his mother finds him a job with a calendar making company; a job that was supposed to be creative turns out to entail St’eacute;phane cutting and pasting papers together.

    In his apartment building, he meets his neighbor, St’eacute;phanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young and unpretentious artist. Her quirky understanding of St’eacute;phane’s odd creations and ideas causes him to fall in love with her almost instantly. The biggest problem for St’eacute;phane to overcome in his attempt to express his feelings for St’eacute;phanie is his difficulty in differentiated his real life from his vivid and oftentimes overpowering dreams.

    The film was written by Gondry with a clever and sentimental wit. A great deal of intimacy is created between St’eacute;phane and the audience as he talks about his father and his feelings for St’eacute;phanie. St’eacute;phane is so sure and innocent, almost romantic, in the things that he wants and feels, that we can only want terribly for his dreams to come true.

    The execution of the dream sequences is a realization of perfection. The colors are bright but not always correct, time and space are irrelevant, and the laws of physics are not even a consideration. There is a nostalgic nature to the images in the dream, which are brilliant in their depiction of the child-like, but not childish, nature of St’eacute;phane’s experiences in reality. At times, these scenes of fantasy and unreality are wonderfully ‘Almod’oacute;varian’ in their campy and offbeat absurdity.

    Bernal, who has played just about every type from a scheming transvestite to Che Guevara, is perfect for the role of St’eacute;phane. His sweet and boyish looks reflect the character’s nature, which intensifies St’eacute;phane’s innocence. He is almost na’ve in his understanding of the world, and his escape to a place of fantasy that he limitlessly controls is understandable. Bernal portrays St’eacute;phane’s honest purity with something as simple as a glance from beneath his lashes or the soft tone of his voice.

    The film is written in three languages: Spanish, French, and English. While the constant presence of language barriers in St’eacute;phane’s world clearly reflects his struggle with identity and truth, the transition between the tongues are as effortless for the audience as the transitions from real life to dreams for St’eacute;phane. His world of fantasy comes to represent a strangely accurate explanation of our reality.

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