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INT: Science of Sleep

09.21.2006

As Freud and many other distinguished scholars have noted, dreams offer us keen insight into the workings of the subconscious mind. Since I happen to primarily dream about pizza and beer, I would have to say that my conscious and subconscious minds are pretty congruent. Now if I could just figure out what those little green elves are all about…

This week acclaimed French director Michel Gondry (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) explores the world of dreams with his latest project, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP. He recently stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about the quirky new film. Check it out.

Michel Gondry

I take it you have very vivid dreams.

Yes. Last night I dreamed that 60 homeless prostitutes were invading my apartment. It was a representation of the spam and junk mail I receive. So that was kind of a nightmare.

A lot of this movie seems autobiographical. When did you start writing this?

About eight years before I started shooting. I just wanted to see how I could make a movie about my dreams. There lot of movies about dreams; those are some of the best movies. Sometimes you're sleeping in the middle because you need to merge back, to come back to reality before you dive again. you just come into a dream and come out. It was my goal to do a movie about how dreams interact with real life.

How difficult was it to create the animation and special effects?

We shot most of the animation actually eight months before we started principal photography. We went into my countryside house that my aunt sold me a few years ago and we set up two cameras, and two little sets. Then we built these…my cousin is an architect and we used to make our own cities when we were kids. He built the toilet paper roll city for three weeks. And then for one week, we set it up in front of the camera and we animated it all. So we already had a month to go before we started to shoot so I could project them and the actors could actually participate by watching them and they would understand what kind of world they would be in.

What made Gael Garcia Bernal right for the lead role of Stephane?

He is very handsome, so it would make it hard for me to imagine that he would fit this production. So I had to push him into the most awkward places where he wasn’t initially. But he has this range that goes from being really comical and sometimes spastic to very dramatic and even aggressive. There are some times where he almost reminds me of Chaplin, who I always loved. Because he is a little smaller, like Chaplin was, it gives him the energy to fight back. Sometimes smaller people get this kick they need to compete with others, an extra energy.

How challenging was it for Gael to speak the different languages (French and English) in the film?

He promised me that he would learn French and he didn’t, really. I had to adapt to him. On the other hand the actress who played Miou-Miou, who is one of the most famous French actresses, she refused to speak English. So I had to adapt, but I think that was for the best of the film, because if you look at the film it makes perfect sense…so I managed to deal with the handicap to make it better. For me it was important to have him in the film because we are both foreigners in the countries in which we live. But I guess now I am living more in New York , where really everyone is a foreigner.

The character Stephane dreams up several inventions. Did you invent anything in particular for this film?

Animation is a constant invention but I can't remember a system that was really working.

The idea was to use the cuts as a time machine so I was kinda trying to innovate with that…The way we made the volcano explode in the film involved a pretty innovate method involving mirrors.  Initially, I wanted to do the dream sequence in 3D with a real effect…if you put one eye darker than the other and you see something that is moving even if it's flat, you see it in 3D because it delays your perception. So by delaying one eye, you see one eye from a different perspective because the image is moving. I have had to practically film all the scene of the dream with always a camera moving so if you put those glasses you would see all the dream in 3D in the theater. But I had so many things to do in this movie that I couldn't; we had to give up on this idea.

This film, like many of your videos, features a sequence with a giant hand. What does that represent?

It represents my penis. [laughs] No, I think I really experienced it when I was young; I had this recurring nightmare and I would wake up with the feeling of having huge hands. After I did the film, I went to and exhibition about the body and there actually was a picture of a guy with a huge hand. It’s actually called homunculus, and it's a representation of our body and our mind; it's how if you want to move your right arm, you're going to send an order from this part (points to the left side of his brain) and that corresponds to your right hand and that corresponds to all your nerve endings because on our hands we have much more nerve endings that on your arm.

You have a small arm and huge hand and actually the homunculus has a small penis. That's not a topic in the film, so this comes from experience really. It's interesting that going through the process of making the film, I could find out finally because I've been to see a psychologist and people like that to ask “What does it mean?” It doesn't help me for any scene, but it's good to feel that it's not a random feeling. It corresponds to really the configuration, the connection of my brain to my body.

You continue to direct music videos despite the fact that you’ve moved up to feature films. Do you feel that you’ve lost anything by continuing to do both art forms at the same time?

No. It’s the opposite. I think I take the best of both and I get enriched by both worlds. Just yesterday on the plane I was supposed to write my screenplay, but I couldn’t think about anything except writing a video for Charlotte Gainsbourg. I had a great idea that I was really impressed with and I’m going to send it to her. It was something that I could not think of for a movie but could eventually help me with one. I really think that this connection that I have with pop music and pop culture really helps me in my movies to connect with the audience.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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