From the director of Slacker and Dazed and Confused comes one of the most imaginative animated features ever made. This funny, ingenious film, which Rolling Stone Magazine calls "nothing short of amazing," explores the fas... more »cinating question: "Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake- walking through our dreams"? Join Wiley Wiggins as he searches for answers to lifes most important questions in a world that may or may not be reality in the "most visually alive movie of the year." (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)« less
This is one of the most fascinating films I've ever seen. Not only does it deal with the mature theme of what life is really about, it visually adds dimension with its animation technique of animating the movements of an actor, frame by frame. The ability to add different coloring and other emphasis on portions of discussion made it both intellectually and visually fascinating. Definitely worth watching.
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Craig Clarke | New England | 07/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Linklater is one of the great independent directors working today. No matter what you think of his work, you cannot deny that he is an original voice. I don't like all his movies, but I invariably look forward to trying out each new one. Waking Life is one of the good ones. To start with, its very existence is a sign of this man's imagination. He films the whole thing and edits it into a feature. Now at this point, most directors would consider their film finished. But not Rick Linklater. No, now he gives it to Bob Sabiston at LineResearch to totally cover over with rotoscoping animation using Sabiston's own software. So, basically, he's made two films in one. And we're the luckier for it.If you've seen Slacker, you'll be familiar with the style. In that film, one scene blends into another through the use a minor character from one scene (often no more than a walk-on) becoming the focus of the next scene. Well, here the blend is not so logical. Several scenes appear to be dreams from which our hero (played by Wiley Wiggins from Dazed and Confused) awakens at the end. Only even his awakening appears to be part of the dream. Eventually, he realizes that he is not really waking up, and this begins to disturb him. (How to tell when you're dreaming--and make the most of it--becomes the subject of one conversation.) But he continues to meet up with people, often trying to interrupt their monologues with his own questions about his problem. Until he finally runs into a guy playing pinball (Linklater) who tells him simply to "wake up." But does he? Animating this film was the best idea Linklater had. Often one's mind wanders during these characters' monologues (several of them just aren't that interesting), but the animation surrounding them keeps your interest. It not only saves the film, but makes it better. It transcends itself. Instead of becoming Slacker meets My Dinner with Andre, it turns into art--that rarest of creatures, cinematic art.Conversations that would be as dull as a dormitory-kitchen knife are enlivened. Concepts not understood become graspable through the use of illustrative drawings. Even the actors themselves (primarily amateurs including several professors from the University of Texas at Austin) are shown in a new light through the eyes of the animators. (One wonders what they thought of the animators' taking license with their likenesses.) My favorites were the "human interaction" scene, the "holy moment" scene, the story told in the bark, and the above "pinball" scene, where Linklater tells the film's most interesting story about Phillip K. Dick's discovery after writing one of his novels.Have your own "holy moment" and immerse yourself in the dream world of Waking Life. (Note on the DVD: This baby is loaded. Making ofs, interviews, several commentaries, and a very compelling animated short film called "Snack and Drink" featuring an autistic boy. Very educational regarding the process of bringing this movie through its paces and very entertaining as well. Well worth the price.)"
Ideal late-night college hallway conversation
Eugene Wei | Santa Monica, CA USA | 10/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Linklater calls this a "movie about ideas," and it is indeed unlike most movies. It has only the slightest semblance of a plot. The unnamed narrator, played by Wiley Wiggins, seems to be trapped in a neverending dream in which he encounters a whole series of characters who expound on ideas about existence, dreaming, identity, time, religion, society. It reminded me of conversations with peers in college, sitting in the hallway of a dormitory, in the middle of the night, our minds bursting with ideas, grappling with problems and not finding any solutions but enamored with the quest. Like that, except amplified. The ideas in Waking Life are not like, whoa, you know, the ramblings of a pot-smoking college flunkie, but actual thoughts from intriguing street philosophers like Speed Levitch, fictional characters like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's characters from Linklater's Before Sunrise, artists like Steven Soderbergh, or academics like philosophy professor Robert Solomon.It's a movie that would not have worked nearly as well as live action. The realism would detract from the intellectual dreaminess of the ideas. Linklater's animation technique, which uses computers to paint on top of live digital video footage, is just right for this film. It is as close as I've ever seen to having visuals actually embody the ideas being expressed verbally by the characters. A new, exciting alternative to the documentary as a visual medium for ideas, and just as credible an approach as that of, say, David Lynch, for reproducing the sensation of dream. The animation awakens the reality just as the ideas in the film rouse your mind.Finally, it's a movie that will inspire a polarized reaction. The person I saw the film with stood up halfway into the film and left, unable to stand it. The greatest films seem to inspire such reaction. I left the theater and stood on the sidewalk outside, thinking."
Great Movie, but then again I'm a moron....
William D. Mcgregor | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 07/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a really great movie, totally engrossing and entertaining. I can't recommend it enough. I will, however, acknowledge that it is probably not for all tastes; I just don't understand why people who didn't like it can't do the same. But no, the criticizers can almost never be content with trashing the movie/book/music that they are ostensibly reviewing. Instead they turn their wrath immediately from the subject at hand to those morons, like me, who actually enjoyed the work in question. It's strange....But anyway, I think anyone who criticizes the MOVIE based on the depth of the philosophical content has missed the point entirely and has maybe taken the whole thing a little too seriously. I'm pretty sure Linklater didn't regard this project as his own personal effort to displace Aristotle in the western canon (heck, during the discussion of free will he has a character explicitly acknowledge that much of what is being discussed could be called sophomoric). Waking Life is anything but didactic. It is, like Lynch's Mulholland Drive, a DREAM. And just as Mulholland Drive is a dream of and by (so to speak) Hollywood, Waking Life is a dream of and by ideas. And you can't (or at least in my opinion you shouldn't) judge a representation of a dream against what you think would be a proper representation of something else altogether.One thing I would like to say in Linklater's defense: To suggest that NONE of the philosophical riffs in the film have any sort or academic merit is just plain obstinate. Many of the actors in the film are, in fact, academics, and 3 that I can think of off the top of my head are philosophy professors, who helped craft their monologues and presumably know at least a little (though, I grant you, by no means nearly as much) about the topics as our friendly Amazon critics.In the criticizer's defense: It's true, Waking Life does not reveal the meaning of life or confirm the existence of God. Sorry if that ruins it for you....
Well, I've said my peace, and in doing so I realize that I'm diving headlong into hypocrisy when I urge reviewers to, please, talk all you want about the movie/book/music in question, but leave us poor total strangers alone."
Shimmering and Innovative
Michael | Pittsburgh, PA United States | 10/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Waking Life" is the rare kind of movie that makes your jaw drop in more ways than one. It's worth the price of admission (more than once, in my opinion) just to behold the 'rotoscoping' animation. Shot in digital film with real actors, a team of animators painted over each frame to produce an eery balance between realism and fantasy. Colors reflect a character's emotions at a given time, shapes distort to express thematic conclusions, and lines themselves vibrate with a universal energy. The visuals are beautiful and hypnotic.What's equally impressive (and perfectly complementary to the animation) is the exposition of "Waking Life". I hesitate to say 'plot' (although the film does build on itself), since the main character (Wiley Wiggins) wanders from person to person in an attempt to understand the world around him. The film is largely a combination of monologues and soliloquies on the nature of dreams, reality, life, death, free will, and everything in between. Wiggins' character can't figure out what's happening to him - he seemingly wakes from dream after dream, wondering if he's really awake.What I find exhilirating may be frustrating for others, but if you have the chance to see "Waking Life", don't miss it. It's a cinematic masterpiece."
To Sleep, Perchance To Dream
Theo Logos | Pittsburgh, PA | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"`Waking Life' uses creative animation techniques and a nearly plot-less conversational format to explore some of the deep philosophical questions of consciousness, dream, and reality. While this may sound heavy and boring, director Richard Linklater (`Slacker') brings a surprisingly light touch to the project, and the result is a fascinating, thought provoking, and highly enjoyable film. I watched this movie twice in one week. I was alone the first time that I viewed it, and found myself hard-pressed to express either the density of the ideas presented, or just how entertaining that presentation was. So I rented it again, and sat down to watch it with my best friend. We put the remote between us, and then, every few minutes, one or the other of us would grab it, hit pause, and launch into a discussion of what we had just seen. It took us all evening to watch this hour and forty minute film this way, but the result of this exercise was both entertaining and mentally stimulating. Richard Linklater has a knack for making this type of fare. `Waking Life' is similar in many ways to his debut film, `Slacker', which shares its loose, conversational format and philosophical bent. `Waking Life' is a much stronger, more focused and thoughtful film, however, and it is easy to see Linklater's maturation as a film maker and thinker. If you simply want mindless entertainment, avoid this movie, it is definitely not for you. If, however, you enjoy films that are clever, innovative, and thought-provoking then `Waking Life' very well might become one of your favorites.