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Waking Life (2001) - Plot Summary Poster

(2001)

Plot

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Summaries

  • Dreams. What are they? An escape from reality or reality itself? Waking Life follows the dream(s) of one man and his attempt to find and discern the absolute difference between waking life and the dreamworld. While trying to figure out a way to wake up, he runs into many people on his way; some of which offer one sentence asides on life, others delving deeply into existential questions and life's mysteries. We become the main character. It becomes our dream and our questions being asked and answered. Can we control our dreams? What are they telling us about life? About death? About ourselves and where we come from and where we are going? The film does not answer all these for us. Instead, it inspires us to ask the questions and find the answers ourselves.

  • This is the story of a boy who has a dream that he can float, but unless he holds on, he will drift away into the sky. Even when he is grown up, this idea recurs. After a strange accident, he walks through what may be a dream, flowing in and out of scenarios and encountering various characters. People he meets discuss science, philosophy and the life of dreaming and waking, and the protagonist gradually becomes alarmed that he cannot awake from this confusing dream adventure.

  • A man shuffles through a dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe.

    Sean C.

Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Waking Life is about an unnamed young man living an ethereal existence that lacks transitions between everyday events and that eventually progresses toward an existential crisis. For most of the film he observes quietly but later participates actively in philosophical discussions involving other charactersranging from quirky scholars and artists to everyday restaurant-goers and friendsabout such issues as metaphysics, free will, social philosophy, and the meaning of life. Other scenes do not even include the protagonist's presence, but rather, focus on a random isolated person, group of people, or couple engaging in such topics from a disembodied perspective. Along the way, the film touches also upon existentialism, situationist politics, posthumanism, the film theory of André Bazin, and lucid dreaming, and makes references to various celebrated intellectual and literary figures by name.

    Gradually, the protagonist begins to realize that he is living out a perpetual dream, broken up only by occasional false awakenings. So far he is mostly a passive onlooker though this changes during a chat with a passing woman who suddenly approaches him. After she greets him and shares her creative ideas with him, he reminds himself that she is a figment of his own dreaming imagination. Afterwards, he starts to converse more openly with other dream characters, but he begins to despair about being trapped in a dream. The protagonist's final talk is with a character who looks somewhat similar to the protagonist himself and whom he briefly encountered previously, earlier in the film. This last conversation reveals this other character's understanding that reality may be only a single instant that the individual interprets falsely as time (and, thus, life); that living is simply the individual's constant negation of God's invitation to become one with the universe; that dreams offer a glimpse into the infinite nature of reality; and that in order to be free from the illusion called life, the individual need only to accept God's invitation.

    The protagonist is last seen walking into a driveway when he suddenly begins to levitate, paralleling a scene at the start of the film of a floating child in the same driveway. The protagonist uncertainly reaches toward the car's handle but is too swiftly lifted above the vehicle and over the trees. He rises into the endless blue expanse of the sky until he disappears from view

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