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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Science of Sleep
The Science of Sleep
Warner Bros. // R // February 6, 2007
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted February 1, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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If creativity alone acknowledges a quality film, then The Science of Sleep would earn a giant, radiant star of approval from the start. Director Michel Gondry is no stranger to the creative nature of film. With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he dazzles the mind with a strong tale of lost love and recovery, all amidst a remarkable science fiction base. Visually, The Science of Sleep achieves the same level of unusually handsome manifestations of the mind. Though weaker than Gondry's preceeding film in narrative, this new venture into the strange and unusual maintains a steady course of quality. Seemingly more experimental than a coherent story, The Science of Sleep still charms, delights, and ultimately challenges the conventions of film with a rich, dream-like presentation.


The Film:

Stéphane Miroux (Gael Garcia Bernal) is creative, to say the least. Boyishly charming, yet shy and quite immature for a grown man, he illustrates mortal tragedies in the form of child-like pastel drawings. He then wishes to assemble the lot in a calendar with a "Disasterology" theme. Stéphane also creates unique small-scale inventions that don't hold much useful merit in society.

After his father recently lost his life in Mexico, Stéphane is lured to Paris by his mother by the prospects of a creative calendar production position. This positions pans out to be a real cut-and-paste job where he possesses no creative input. Along with his brainless work around calendars, his co-workers heighten the experience by being oddly deranged misfits. His lack of a strong grasp on the French language doesn't help in any of his affairs, either. It's safe to assume Stéphane isn't under his ideal circumstances.

When he arrives, Stéphane finds himself living in his mother's apartment - alone. Stretching his legs out over his childhood bed in a room adorned with his old creations, he seems relatively content with his surroundings. Living across from his place are two attractive French women, Zoé and Stéphanie. Remotely interested in Stéphane is Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an equally artistic individual herself that seems to be his counterpoint. Her own creativity and constructive tendencies mirror Stéphane's inventiveness. Both roommates, most especially Zoé since Stéphanie doesn't like to insult people in her apartment, get their hand in toying with the boyish new guy. Though interested, Stéphane cannot discern which of the women he likes amidst their flirtatiously teasing torment. Plus, even though he interacts with Stéphanie on a much more civil level, he carries no initial strong chemistry with either woman.

Though it all sounds complicated, Stéphane's outlandishly creative mind is about to make it all worse. Because of the strength of his infantile, vivid imagination, at least three-quarters of this film occurs as a fabricated reality from Stéphane's mind. Crafted from cardboard egg cartons and boxes within his own mental space, Stéphane creates his own modified television studio reality. Within this elaborate, light brown room, Stéphane is the leading actor and producing director of a television show ... his life, aka Stéphane TV. Windows on the side of the wall are his eyes. A blue screen near the back is his dreams and imagination. With the help of photographs of everyone around him, liquefied memories, and a dash of pepper with some noodles, Stéphane cooks up some radically unique dreams. Through this grown-up equivalent of a play fort within his mind, reality blends with fantasy to such a degree that Stéphane honestly hasn't a clue which is which. Much like a child encapsulated in his dream world, he seems utterly lost.

The Science of Sleep relies upon Stéphane's infantile innocence and his focusing infatuation with Stéphanie. Once he discovers and develops this desperate fervor within his convoluted feelings for her, Stéphanie starts to emotionally venture away. Much like the lingering feelings for a lost love, she begins to occupy Stéphane's head as a catalyst for his disastrous attempts at romance. Though real-time Stéphanie seems to lean away from his romantic efforts, mentally-bound Stéphanie instigates Stéphane encouragingly to pursue. Within that, Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers such potency and fantastically differing personas that she leads a consistent support for the lost protagonist to get the girl.

Creatively, Gondry has assembled one starkly crafted mental diversion. Throughout this trip through Stéphane's mind, many imaginary elements are given life right before the eyes. Gondry's artistic construction of the dream world alone is worth watching. Tubes of cardboard become railway trains, colored cellophane becomes flowing water, and trees grow from boats while a stuffed wind-up horse gallops across the land. Though they lack clear incorporation within the narrative, these vivid creations of Stéphane's visceral world are quite a sight to see. While they do succeed in conveying that these scenes are within a falsified universe, many questions might arise about the film's honesty in storytelling. Much is left open for interpretation in The Science of Sleep. Whether there is a blend of real and crafted elements within Stéphane's life is a possibility; likewise, absolutely none of the film could be real. Deciding whether to embrace these possibilities relies within a vested interest towards Stéphane's dream world.

There is a good deal to enjoy in The Science of Sleep. Light on laughs, yet heavy on personality, this eccentric trip through the fabric of Stéphane's imagination is filled with charming characters and a phenomenal plethora of imagery. Though it'll take some work to formulate what is tangible and what is make-believe, the light and youthful feel of the film makes it a pleasant contemplation. Gondry has succeeded in crafting an unusually beautiful film that is both innocent and thought-provoking.


The DVD:

Warner Bros has packaged The Science of Sleep in a terrifically packed DVD with original posterart adorning the cover. The anamorphic menu design is quite elegant, reminiscent of Gondry's handmade creations throughout the film.

The Video:

The Science of Sleep is presented in an outstanding anamorphic widescreen image that is absolutely lurid with color. The outstanding palette Gondry used to craft this piece is translated just amazingly. Minor details are extremely crisp and very visible. In a film where many small eccentricities adorn the screen, a concentration on this detail is important – and this DVD hits the mark.

The Audio:

Presented in English DD 5.1 (along with many portions in Spanish and French), the audio presentation was very strong. All voices, whether inside of outside of Stéphane's head, poured through the crisp audio track without difficulty. A very subtle piece with lots of interesting music and mild sound effects, The Science of Sleep isn't meant to give the speakers a work-out. However, the audio provided is packed with rich detail and clarity. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French, while the only available language track is the original track that blends English, French, and Spanish.

The Extras:

The content packed on this disc is pretty wonderful in volume and quality. WB has provided some engaging extras loaded with The Science of Sleep:

A Director's Commentary with Michel Gondry and Cast is included. Such a dialogue from the creator of an immensely creative and personal piece is a welcome addition. Though the crew gets sidetracked at times float in between English and French a bit too often, the content that they do include is pretty entertaining and interesting. Gael Garcia Bernal serves up very entertaining shards of information here and there about his participation during the production, while Gondry illustrates the creation of the set and props a bit more in detail.

The Making of The Science of Sleep featurette is an intimate portrait into the creation of Gondry's baby of a project. Interviews with many individuals involved with both the shaping of the film and the shaping of Gondry's career adorn the feature. Though production stills and storyboards aren't included with the DVD, this Making Of feature includes all of that rolled into one package. This documentary proves to be very insightful and entertaining, especially when Charlotte Gainsbourg pries bits and pieces of interesting information from Gondry.

This Featurette on Laura Faggioni, animal and accessory specialist on the film, is quite interesting as well. Laura gives some insight behind the passionate and creative processes she undergoes during the creation of the animals in The Science of Sleep. Plus, she discusses her transition in professions due to Michael Gondry's work.

Also included is a Linda Serbu Music Video that illustrates her Hollywood Kitty organization that recues cats within the area. Her brief discussion also includes a song from the motion picture, entitield Rescue Me.

Plus, a short featurette called Adopt Some Love is also available that shows some area kids that help cats find places to live during their free time.

To top it all off, a Theatrical Trailer is also included.


Warner Bros. has provided an extremely nice package for this The Science of Sleep DVD. Though only on one disc, they manage to keep the film in extremely pleasurable shape both audibly and visually while including all the above extras. The producers of this content did a fantastic job.


Final Thoughts:

The Science of Sleep is a visual feast that contains an innocent dream world's catastrophic attempt at unscrambling love's twisted nature. Gondry's work is very special to behold and not something to be missed. His ambitious creation of jumbled realities leans heavily on the experimental, ambiguous nature of film, as opposed to that of a clear cut narrative. This isn't a bad thing; however, it does manage to water down the potentially shining warmth the story could've provided with more concentration. Taking this into consideration, this unique venture into Stephane's passionately lavish dream world is a joy to watch. With such stunning visuals, engaging host of characters, and a massively interesting compilation of extras paired with a superb audio/video presentation, this The Science of Sleep DVD comes Highly Recommended.



Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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