Waking Life

Midway through this film the protagonist finally starts talking and the audience finally starts understanding the basic set up – the rotoscoped picture-world represents a dream we are trying to escape. In it we a confronted by numerous personages lecturing on their particular experiments in living. A recurring theme is the question of free will and the possibility of self-definition in a chaotic, uncontrollable reality. The existential projects of all these people only seem possible in this brightly-coloured dimension where physical and moral laws bend around you. As the film was progressing, I was trying to predict how it will end. I thought the logical conclusion would be some return to live-action where the rules of reality are once again imposed on our wandering/wondering hero – the freedom promised in dreams (and all that flighty talk) annulled. That doesn't happen, but my estimable friend with whom I watched the film convinced me that it didn't need to. The film did not present a fundamental opposition to the viewer like I thought. Indeed it keeps repeating the idea that dreaming and waking life are equivalents. Our dreamer wishes to wake up just as we often wish to escape into a dream world. He ultimately has no control over his reality just as we don't have any control over ours. I thought the final set-piece in the film was an unsatisfying fudge, deferring the question of whether we are safe in our beds or in the land of the dead. It wasn't: it's a metaphor for degradation, death and the unknowable afterlife. At the beginning of the film, a boy manages to grasp reality and just about avoid being swept into oblivion. The audience is then treated to a long lesson about our wills not being able to define our lives. At the end, our protagonist tries to get in the car (move on, start living) and can't. The world slips from his grasp and he is lost.

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