Awakening animation

Waking Life

Directed by Richard Linklater

(Trevor Jack Brooks, Lorelei Linklater, Wiley Wiggins, Glover Gill)



In middle school a snot-nosed kid named Chris Karges picked on me constantly and made my life hell. So one time, when I saw him sitting at his desk cutting up construction paper, I went over and kicked him in the stomach until he fell over. It was a huge relief and I didn’t get in trouble at all.

I was the only one to witness this well-earned beating because I dreamt it in my sleep. Once I realized that I was really in a dream about watching my tormentor, I decided that I could kick his ass with no consequences. That’s called lucid dreaming (or dork’s revenge).

The movie Waking Life is about lucid dreaming – but it’s presented with a much more philosophical, peace-loving motif than the anecdote above.

The movie follows a teenage boy on a hopped-up dream tour through urbania. He visits seemingly random people who sit across from him and expound upon their views of what life is about and why things are the way they seem to be. Eventually he discovers that he is in a dream that he can’t seem to get out of. (But maybe life is a dream. Ah, the complexity!)

This plot sounds like the kind of thing that a pretentious start-up film festival would adore. But the redeeming – no, disguising – aspect of Waking Life is that it is animated over digital camera shots using special software. The result is a mesmerizing, eye-sucking visual feast that frosts over any frustration a viewer may have with some of the scholastically verbose speeches delivered by a few of the characters.

Waking Life is more of a moving painting than a cartoon. Tiny objects marching across a character’s shoulder, or hair that swirls and spirals around a character’s head add another dimension to scenes; and the effect of turning two armchair philosophers into clouds as they engage in an amusing conversation about perception enhances the film’s message.

The unconventional possibilities explored in the film leave you thinking you have complete control of your life, whether you are asleep or awake.

-Monica LaBelle


Waking Life opens today at the Lagoon Cinema.