Having adored and treasured Eternal Sunshine (also by Michel Gondry), I went half expecting a different narrative, thinking he’d know not to mess with a good formula. But The Science of Sleep is similar to Eternal Sunshine; it’s a gentle, messy, disjointed, romantic tussle between idealism and reality. Nevertheless, apart from sharing those characteristics, the film itself is quite different.
The film is about Stephane Miroux, a whimsical eccentric who cannot quite control his child like dreams, allowing them to invade his waking life. It’s all set in either Miroux’s head or Paris, which is actually grey, flat and dated in comparison to his beautifully formed dreamscapes.
Moving into his mother’s apartment he bumps into his neighbour, Stephanie, instantly becoming so infatuated by her that he feels he must pretend he lives elsewhere. Stephanie sees through this, finding it amusing and silly, but at the same time becomes equally as infatuated.
Stephanie also has a similar dreamlike creative imagination, much like a child. They bond when they create an enchanting animation about something in a tiny boat (I think it was a tree, but its so bizarre it might well be an egg) adrift at sea. Little balls of cotton wool float naturally in the air and cling-film cascades from the tap (a la Thomas The Tank Engine water scenes).
Nearing the end of the film the relationship between Miroux and Stephanie seems to take over, and its ok, but its just not as watchable as Miroux’s co-workers office squabbling, especially the hilarious nonchalantly rude Guy. He adds humour and realism, and should have taken a larger role, [Guy: Are you interested in Martine? Miroux: Martine from work? Guy: No, Martin Scorsese].
The Science of Sleep isn’t always easy to watch, it’s awkward, confusing and eccentric, but Miroux is charming and hopeful, lost and amusing, and above all a brilliant storyteller.
The DVD has some quirky little featurettes, such as “Rescue Me”, which is a bizarre story about a lady who saves and adopts stray cats. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the film, but that kind of runs with the philosophy of the film.
The Science of Sleep trailer