Waking Life is a 2001 semi-animated film by Richard Linklater. The plot follows a young man walking through a lucid dream where he observes and enters into dialogue about lofty philosophical concepts and theories. The film itself was initially shot on digital video, and then drawn over by a team of animators. The resulting look is fairly unique, and manages to evoke dream-like imagery on a shoestring budget.Despite lacking a traditional plot, visuals, or even trained actorsnote excluding Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Wiley Wiggins..., the film won a great deal of praise for its innovation and unique look. Roger Ebert would add it to his list of Great Movies in 2009.
TV Woman: All through the centuries, the notion that life is wrapped in a dream has been a pervasive theme of philosophers and poets. So doesn't it make sense that death, too, would be wrapped in dream? That, after death, your conscious life would continue in what might be called, "a dream body"? It would be the same dream body you experience in your everyday dream life. Except that in the post-mortal state, you could never again wake up, never again return to your physical body.
The Dead Can Dance: The waltzers near the end of the film seem to be engaged in a danse macabre.
Empathic Environment: As The Dreamer grows depressed, and the subject starts to broach the subject of death, the world similarly becomes darker and more forboding, as the soundtrack starts to become more dissonant and threatening.
Mind Screw: Much of the film, though one scene in particular is notable. The protagonist is discussing a woman's plan for a "real-life" soap opera when he realizes he's dreaming again. He then asks her what it's like being a dream, inflicting this on the woman (her dialogue becomes much less composed). She still challenges The Dreamer:
Soap Opera Woman: We seem to think we're so limited by the world and— and the confines, but we're really just creating them. And you keep trying to figure it out, but it seems like now that you know that what you’re doing is dreaming, you can do whatever you want to. You're, uh, dreaming, but you’re awake. You have, um, so many options, and that's what life is about.
Then, when he says that he'd been passive (in the first half of the movie), just listening to other characters orate:
Soap Opera Woman: It's not necessarily passive to not respond verbally. We're communicating on so many levels simultaneously. Perhaps you're— you're perceiving directly.
Reality Subtext: John Christensen died before the film finished completion. One of the theories that death is a dream where you never wake up gives Christensen's appearance more meaning and poignancy than his scene should have.
Also, Waking Life itself to his first film, Slacker. Both go from character to character, discussing whatever's on their mind. Waking Life has slightly more plot, though.
Stealth Parody: Possibly used against Alex Jones. While he is yelling one of his monologues over a car loudspeaker, the animation slowly increases his skin hue to brighter, darker shades of red. This could just be a simple exaggeration used in many pieces of animation, or a reference to the imprisoned psychopath who is shown in the same way earlier in the movie.
However, it may just be because he is behind a windshield which has a severe glare; only the general features of Jones could be seen in the original Mini-DV video.