By watching the young, confused, and tired character from Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, I realized how fortunate I was to be able to rouse myself from my dreams. Perhaps too fortunate? I’m not sure. It would be rather intriguing to be able to exercise the concept of a “lucid dream,” which the film explores, in that we are able to realize we are dreaming, and manipulate our thoughts to the point where we cannot distinguish reality from what is actually a dream. That means we can fashion a reality in our sleep which would never be socially acceptable in our own lives, we can toss aside all taboos and social mores and construct an experience for ourselves, and let the plot unfold such as we desire.
Yet our poor protagonist cannot awake from these fantasies, and reawakens time and time again, only to find himself in the midst of another dream. It begs with the question regarding the nature of reality; do we truly have experiences in a realm of supposed consciousness, or do they really manifest themselves in our sleep, disguising themselves as a mere shared hallucination?
Another film which tackles this question is Fight Club, starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham-Carter. Directed by David Fincher, Norton plays a character who suffers from severe insomnia, and becomes an existential madman in many senses. As a result, he undergoes a personal transformation and creates a secondary personality who embodies all the characteristics that he lacks himself (Tyler). Just like the bizarre experiences of our confused hero in Waking Life, Tyler has no bounds; he is powerful, persuasive, and strange. In this film, the main character’s experiences are split between his ‘true’ identity, and the second personality he creates as a result of sleep condition.
Both films provide a fascinating commentary on the role which sleep plays in our lives. One individual is frustrated by their inability to wake, and another’s anguish is derived from his inability to sleep. Yet both characters create and experience their environments – challenging themselves and questioning their purpose, bewildered by the world around them. Despite Pitt’s chiseled abs, the movie deserves 3 stars out of 5, for its sheer mainstream quality. I would give Waking Life 4.5 starts out of 5, as this film relies on its direct philosophical content.