Directed by Richard Linklater (2001)
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Kim Krizan, Alex Jones
Richard Linklater is really good at making movies about people talking. Usually these conversations involve some ideas on personal beliefs and philosophies, but Waking Life is almost wholly given up to philosophy. It’s loosely episodic, much like Linklater’s Slacker and features recurring characters from that earlier work. Slacker is defined by its Austin, Texas setting and features a diverse cast of characters theorizing about their lives and interests. Waking Life is centered around one character and his inability to wake up from dreams.
By virtue of using animation as his medium, Linklater has already made Waking Life an important movie in his canon. Unfortunately, I feel like that makes it seem more relevant than its script. The script doesn’t rely on much – the protagonist goes through his dreams mostly passively, engaging in other characters after they’ve contacted him. A few try to convince him to embrace lucid dreaming or offer advice on how he should go about his dream life. Too much of the conversations are roundabout views on philosophy which don’t bear much, besides as philosophical conversations. The protagonist mentions that he feels like he’s being prepared for something, but it doesn’t seem as though he’s being prepared for anything. Not for living and not for dreaming.
That animation is pretty stunning. Linklater used rotoscoping, which usually bugs me, but it works with the shifting dream quality. The colors are extremely bright and lovely and the score is exceptional.