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Film / The Science of Sleep

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Originally titled La science des rêves, this quirky 2006 French film starring Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg and directed by Michel Gondry is a surreal exploration of the nature of dreams, as well as a charming romance (sort of).

Under-appreciated creative-man Stéphane meets Stéphanie and Zoé moving into the room across from him and he helps move their piano - after getting injured he's invited in to heal his wounds. For some reason he neglects to tell them that he lives across from them, meaning every time he leaves he has to pretend to leave the building.

Things though get confusing as it becomes more difficult (for the audience) to tell the difference between what is real and what is a dream, due to Stéphane's Cloud Cuckoolander status as he tries to get closer to Stéphanie, making gifts for her and getting more and more angry at life that he seems unable to cope with.


This film contains examples of:

  • All Just a Dream
  • All Men Are Perverts: Or so Guy keeps trying to convince Stéphane.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's hard to really conclude how the film ends. Stéphane loses his job, he decides to move back to Mexico, and gets in one last fight with Stéphanie before falling asleep on her bed. She then strokes his hair, and then it cuts to them riding a life-sized Golden the Pony Boy before going away on the model boat. Given that the film has constantly played with the question of what's real and what's not, this could be how Stéphane wanted the story to end.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Golden the Pony Boy", the film's closing theme.
  • Betty and Veronica: Stéphanie is firmly in the "Betty" category, and Zoé, as an aspiring musician has elements of the "Veronica".
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Some of the conversations, especially between Stéphane and Guy are a mix of French, English, and occasionally Spanish.
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  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite even his own doubts, Stéphane is pretty good at his job. His "Disasterology" idea becomes a huge hit, after all. Too bad he's virtually fired due to constantly missing work.
  • Deconstruction: It can become this for the "daydreamer" type of people. While Stéphane's dreams and hallucinations are vivid and beautiful, he seems like he's losing touch with reality, and what's more, his constant daydreaming makes him a man child who seems like he can't understand most of what people in his life says or do. What's worse, he wants a relationship with a girl who is, although quirky as him, its more mature and adult in her life, and he ends, innocently, becoming a Stalker with a Crush to her.
  • Genre Deconstruction: It basically shows what would happen if you were basically like Stéphane, namely your work performance suffering and the girl next door being put off by your mannerisms.
  • Hallucinations: Stéphane’s dreams sometimes intrude on his waking state, to the point that it's not easy to tell which scenes are real and which are his imagination.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Bernal wears the same maroon-colored suit in all of his scenes.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Stéphane puts a note under Stéphanie's door while he's sleepwalking. Except a) he believed it was actually a dream, b) she saw him do it and c) it was asking for her roommate's phone number even though he isn't interested in her. The next morning he goes to get it back, realizing his mistake, except she's already read it.
  • Men Don't Cry: Stéphanie evokes the trope in an attempt to calm Stéphane, who averts it frequently.
  • Mind Screw: Expect at least one every five minutes. But of the playful variety, not the paranoid.
  • No Social Skills: Stéphane is an odd example. He uses his imagination to cope with a lot of the outside world but does have some friends... they are equally as strange as him but when meeting Stéphanie it becomes clear he lacks some very basic social interaction. He goes into Stalker with a Crush mode in sincere innocence, unaware that what he's doing is bad.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted.
  • Our Time Machine Is Different: The one-second time machine that may or may not be real.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: It's exceptionally easy to argue that any scene at all is a dream. Or indeed, that they all are.
  • Sanity Slippage: Stéphane's declining ability to distinguish between reality and dreams carries shades of this.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Despite his obsessive behaviour, culminating when he breaks into Stéphanie's apartment, Stéphane is a benign version, and his more questionable pursuits of her are portrayed as a result of his general social cluelessness.