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Film / The Science of Sleep

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The Science of Sleep (French: La science des rêves) is a 2006 science fantasy romantic comedy film written and directed by Michel Gondry. Starring Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film's plot originated from a bedtime story written by Sam Mounier at the age of 10, and is a surreal exploration of the nature of dreams and love.

Stéphane Miroux (Bernal) is a shy, underappreciated and artistically inclined young man who often has difficulty distinguishing where his vivid dreams end and his reality begins. After the death of his divorced father in Mexico, he moves back into his childhood home in Paris with his mother, who sets him up with a job at a calendar printing company, but lies that it will make good use of his creativity when it's actually dead-end menial work.

By chance, Stéphane meets Stéphanie (Gainsbourg), a creative young woman who's moving into the room across from him, and is a tenant of his mother. Soon, he becomes enamored with her and feels he can show her his world, but complications arise for them and the audience as their connection meets unforeseen difficulties and the line between what is real and what is a dream in Stéphane's life gets blurrier.

This film contains examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Or so Guy keeps trying to convince Stéphane, with his repeated vulgar relationship advice and insistence that men cannot merely be friends with the opposite sex.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's hard to really say how Stéphane's story ends. He loses his job and 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 constantly plays 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.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite even his own doubts, Stéphane is pretty good at his job. His "Disasterology" idea, initially laughed at by the people at his job, ends up being made and becomes a huge hit. Too bad he's "virtually fired" due to constantly missing work.
  • Deconstruction: The film can be read as one for the Cloudcuckoolander. While Stéphane's dreams and hallucinations are vivid and beautiful, he seems like he's losing touch with reality, and his constant daydreaming makes him a manchild who appears to not understand most of what people in his life say or do. What's worse is that he wants a relationship with a girl who is, although quirky like him, more mature and progressed in her life, and his efforts to win her over eventually cross into Stalker with a Crush behavior.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The film is constructed to essentially be from Stéphane's perspective, and in doing so shows the real-life ramifications of the quirky romance he wants to create with Stephanie, namely his work performance suffering and Stephanie (his ostensible Girl Next Door) being put off by his 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: Stéphane 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.
  • 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.