Of the movies I’ve seen recently, the one I’ve been thinking about most has been Waking Life. Directed by Richard Linklater, of Slacker fame, this film follows a young man as he traverses several dreamscapes and engages in a series of philosophical exchanges that explore the nature of reality, dreams, consciousness, the meaning of life and the purpose of free will among other things. Making excellent use of rotoscoping animation, a technique I’ll go into with a little more detail in a second, the film is able to engross with ideas and stories that stimulate while simultaneously disorienting the audience with shifts that mimic the structure of dreams. The conversations that the protagonist engages in are real conversations, and those partaking in them are not actors. These are thinkers and the like, expressing opinions, save for a few exceptions.
It was in juxtaposition between the humanity in the characters on screen, and the ethereal presentation that I found so much power, a power that is distinct to the art form. With a camera we can capture the very essence of someone and present it in whatever frame our imagination can conjure.
Rotoscoping involves layering video footage with animations that are roughly equivalent. The result is uncanny. It’s effect is essential to the film, while watching we too are in a dream, it feels real and sounds real, but it never looks real. Different artists were responsible for animating, adding a subtle style change that furthers the surreality of it all. I suggest watching it, and taking notes on the ideas that catch your attention. It all seems to happen so fast it’s sometimes hard to recall what was said. You just remember it feeling important. A notebook will help with that.