Michel Gondry discusses why he made the film, what questions he was trying to answer, and his next movie Be Kind Rewind
With films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Dave Chappelle's Block Party to his credit, music video director turned auteur Michel Gondry has a brain Hollywood would love to pick. Giving us even more of a glimpse into that mind, Gondry next turned his camera to the world of dreams with The Science of Sleep.
In the film, life seems to be looking up for shy and withdrawn Stephane (Gael García Bernal) when he is coaxed to return to his childhood home with the promise of a job... in the mundane world of copy setting. Wildly creative, his fanciful and sometimes disturbing dream life constantly threatens to usurp his waking world. Stephane is quickly drawn to his neighbor, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) whose imagination easily matches his own. As their relationship blossoms, the confidence Stephane exudes in his dreams begins bleeding over into his real life.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Michel Gondry and discuss the making of this highly interesting and different film.
How did you come up with the idea for The Science of Sleep?
Michel Gondry: Well, it's based on experience I had with my dreams and my life. Basically, it's a lot of periods of time that I mixed together, and while writing the scene I got more experiences that I can project in the film.
Since you wrote and directed the film, how tight did you make the screenplay before you shot it?
Michel Gondry: It was not very tight. I think the characters were pretty defined... I wanted to mix animation and real life with the characters. There's a lot of freedom in it because I was the writer and I was producing, I had the freedom. We went exploring a lot of directions and I think the story came along as we were doing it. The story existed on paper but we had many chances while we were shooting.
Did you know as you know as you were shooting what may not end up in the film?
Michel Gondry: No, no, it's very hard to know. I wish you could know that because then you would not go and shoot the film simply. Sometimes you see something very insignificant and you do it anyway, and you're convinced it's not going to make it to the final film. Then it turns out to be the cornerstone of the story and you wish you had spent more time on it. Those things are very scary because everything happens within the context of each scene. I think the editing is the most creative process.
What is it about the mind that makes it such an interesting place to set a film?
Michel Gondry: I think you should take for example your day. When you're awake you have... you're connected to the outside world. When I'm directing or in certain situations, my eyes are open, even in these situations there's a lot of creation coming from the inside. It's like if I was outside on the phone, I would still have that creation, so basically what happens in our head is like much of our life. I think it's worth it to do one or two movies about it.
I'm very aware of the process of thinking. I'm very intrigued by it because it's what makes us not just machines. I always was intrigued by that.
What do you think you learned the most about yourself during the production?
Michel Gondry: It's interesting because when I did The Science of Sleep, I always had this question about the feelings that Stephanie has toward Stephane. Is she even attracted to him? I made the movie to try and answer questions about that kind of stuff. I didn't give Charlotte any directions about that kind of stuff. I kept asking her, "Do you think you love Stephane?" And she came to me and she said, "Of course she loves him," but I didn't know that and I was trying to.
I was trying to do this to find out if this made Charlotte this way? Would Charlotte ever allow it to happen in real life...? I didn't get an answer obviously but I still made a movie which is cool.
Do you plan to explore sleep and dream states in your other films?
Michel Gondry: No, not in the near future. There's one I'm just finishing now Be Kind Rewind it's more about people coming together. I wrote another one which is a science fiction movie about missing people. I will not go inside the brain for the next movies.
The Science of Sleep is currently available on DVD from Warner Home Video.
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