Waking Life Special Edition on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review

Waking Life

Waking Life gave me the impression, first time round, that I hadn’t got the first idea of what what was going on.

It’s a movie from a director who, by all accounts, is far from conventional and this is apparent in two of his others I’ve seen – one of which I enjoyed (Dazed and Confused) and one of which I didn’t (Slacker).

Wiley Wiggins is a young man, apparently dreaming and ‘floating’ around the town, dropping in on random characters who offer up their own reflections on life – all different, so it’s a lot to take in. The people Wiley comes across include a philosophy professor, a man who keeps changing shape, one who rambles on about free will and whether man has free will or whether life is pre-determined (reminds me of a Simpsons episode!), a man in jail talking about how he’d murder those who captured him, a man who talks a short while as he pours petrol into a can before turning it on himself and striking a match and a scene in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles from the director’s Before Sunrise, a film I hadn’t seen at the time of watching this originally, but have since caught up with and it’s also superb.


Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. No-one else in the scene with two 5-letter fore- and surnames.
(click on the image for the full-size version)

Waking Life is rather a mind-bender because it’s not just a case of filming people. They’re all animated. And not just drawn as standard, but done in a number of different styles, mainly either painted or cell-shaded. The way the various elements of the background shift about independently of one another is also something to get used to.

Some of what you hear in this film you can identify with, whereas others you won’t. There’s also things to learn, as Wiley can’t figure out whether he’s still dreaming after he wakes up, or if he’s really awake. The light switch man tells him to try flicking a switch in a dream: if you can manage it and the light levels don’t change, then you’re dreaming. Once realised, try to seize upon it and then you can control your own dreams and change the destiny within.

This is a film worth watching if you can get into it, but this takes 20-25 minutes to get with the flow. We must all have had a dream within a dream at some point, but how do you know when you’ve woken up?

Shortly after I reviewed the DVD in 2003, I had a dream that I was walking to work, and remembered that this film told me to check whether you’re in a dream by looking at your watch (which I never wear in real life – same as Wiley Wiggins, himself). I looked at my watch, and the hands were all over the place so that confirmed I was dreaming. I looked back at the path I’d walked along and a fence had since been constructed over it. I thought, “Yep, I’m dreaming!”

Today, after I watching the film on Blu-ray, I went out for a walk and couldn’t get the theme tune out of my head (not least because a segment plays incessantly over the menus) and I happened to pass that very same area of land (I do live near there, by the way, I hadn’t teleported!). I realised that my dream had meshed different sections of the area together so it wasn’t exactly as it appears in reality. I probably realised that back in the day, too, but had since forgotten and was reminded of it having just watched the film again.

I love the movie a lot more second time round, including the way they do the transitions between the scenes, as one element fades out and a new one comes in.

Go to page 2 for a look at the presentation and extras.


Richard Linklater – the second time you see him.
(click on the image for the full-size version)


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