Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Waking Life (2001)
A beautiful idea questionably executed
The main problem with this film is that it only very loosely fits the criteria for being a film in the traditional sense i.e. a story with a narrative arc. When watching this film for the first time one could be forgiven for thinking after the first say 40 minutes that the film does not have a plot at all but is just a collection of found footage (albeit clips with similar subject matter) that has been animated over as a mere exercise. I'm still not sure that the film really is much more than this. Anyway, the idea binding all these clips (primarily philosophically minded monologues) together - i actually loved, i think is a stunning idea beautifully executed. The core of the film, the unifying idea, is absolutely great, what is in question here is the bulk of the film, the content of it, that would not really damage the film in any significant way if it were to be cut out.
This is not to say that Linklater is entirely unjustified in cramming his film with this loosely related, very mixed bag of intellectual mumblings. The plot of the film is basically a kid dreaming about lots of philosophical conversations, so having a film full of conversations seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do considering this. It's just that a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Theoretically you could have a film that was a week long and consisted of nothing but conversations. This is an extreme example but what's important in a film like this, is that you don't outstay your welcome with this not entirely necessary material and that you ensure that the audience knows why they're sitting through this stuff as opposed to feeling like they've wandered into the wrong cinema screen, having expected to see a real film and not a loosely cobbled together documentary. The film in fact, i think, would have a very hard time indeed, proving that it wasn't merely a poorly executed documentary, were it not for the animation technique used that keeps everything faintly within the realm of fantasy.
In summary, my 1st problem with the bulk of this film is that there is perhaps too much of it, considering that it is really, non-essential material and that its not always clear exactly what you're watching and why you're expected to watch it.
Another problem with this collected material is that a lot of it is crap. A lot of it is incredibly shallow, long-worded philosophy that teeters on the outermost brink of comprehensibility. Speaking frankly, if I'm going to watch a documentary about Determinism and Epistemology (which really is what this film is as much as it is a story about a kid dreaming) i want to hear from well-read philosophers who have something to say in plain English (which is something this film does have a certain amount of) as opposed to idiots with a taste for long-words who're out on a mission to do my head in.
Anyway, thats all i have to say about this film really. The overall idea is absolutely beautiful, poignantly and chillingly executed, but the material that makes up the majority of the film is not entirely justifiable and largely quite irritating.
The tyranny of plot over character.
This film has no soul. Thats my main problem with the film really. It has no soul. Sure the film looks fantastic, sure it supposedly deals with the often popular and heady subject of revenge in a brash, bold way but it does it in a way that is needlessly gratuitous and wholly sensational. The long, side-scrolling fight scene which is very striking and original is entirely unnecessary and drawn out. A clear cut case of style over substance, which is apparent throughout most of this film. And it suffers heavily from a certain style of writing that seems to be symptomatic of substandard east Asian filmmakers. The idea that drama and powerful film-making are the result of a cumulative effect. That is, if you add enough elements that are recognisably powerful and dramatic, you will end up with a powerful, dramatic film. For example, suicide is very striking and powerful, revenge is dramatic, unrequited love is dramatic, a character unable of feeling human emotions is a powerful statement. The problem is that this film amongst other Asian films (eg. hero, Samaritan girl) tries to imitate truly powerful films, without an understanding of what made those films powerful in the first place, thus creating a dramatic atmosphere by carelessly throwing all these features together without the slightest care for how it effects the characters that it subjects these "dramatic" events to. What you are left with are alien characters, that no human being can possibly relate to or comprehend, that have no soul of their own, but are merely devices, allegories and playthings of the sensational directors that use them. In short what you have here, in this highly praised and touted film is the tyranny of plot over character and ultimately the death of character.