When we caught up
with director Richard Linklater at this year's Sundance Film Festival for
the world premiere of his free-association animated film, Waking
Life, things got almost as surreal as in the movie itself, which
explores such philosophical conundrums as how you can ever be sure you're
awake or asleep.
As the director of Slacker and Dazed and Confused
explained his interest in "lucid dreaming" ！ trying to be aware that
you're dreaming and even controlling what happens in your dreams ！ he got
up to perform the same test a character performs in the film: turning a
light switch on and off.
'I Must Be Asleep Right
In the movie, which opens this weekend, Wiley Wiggins
(the unfortunate subject of all that paddling in Dazed) keeps
trying and failing to wake up, and then realizes he's still sleeping when
flicking a light switch has no effect. When Linklater performed the same
action ！ in real life ！ he got the same result as his dreaming movie
character. "Wow, guess I must be asleep right now!" he said, caught off
guard by life unexpectedly imitating art.
The film starts out with the quote "dream is destiny," which Linklater
says is "kind of autobiographical. I've always been real interested in
dreams and reality. I was just trying to capture something of the dream
state, sort of a 'how-to' manual [on how to dream lucidly].
Linklater says everyone has different dream symbols, but "mine just
happened to be light and digital imagery, such as digital clocks, I seek
those out in real life."
"What I just did there, trying to turn the light off, ！ if you just do
that in your waking life enough, [it's] the trick to knowing whether
you're dreaming; start training yourself when you are awake. No one ever
asks themselves [whether they're dreaming] when they're awake, but if you
do ask yourself that when you're awake, you're more likely to [be able to]
do it when you're asleep. 'What am I doing here? My grandmother died 10
years ago, what am I doing in her house?'"
Mining His Own
He adds that a lot of the dialogue in the film was
taken from his own dreams. "A lot of the film came out of my own dream
research, if you want to call it that. There's a big institute up at
Stanford called the Lucidity Institute ！ they have a lot of machines, and
they test stuff. I like the science of it ！ it's not just some 'out there'
new agey thing."
The Texas-based director isn't exactly known for making blockbusters,
but even this independent director admits that it was "beyond risk" to
make an animated, non-linear film.
"If I ever stepped back and said, 'How is this going to fit into the
real world of distribution and marketing,' it was depressing to have to
think about that end of it," he said of making the free-association flick
with a handful of Austin, Texas, artists, who all hand-drew animated cels
over live action in a process known as rotoscoping.
"I just knew I liked working on it, and I felt really strongly about
it," he says, admitting that some people had problems with the non-linear
story of his first film, Slacker, too. " A lot of people walked out
[of Slacker]. You have to accept it in its own terms and [let] it
live by its own rules. Waking Life is [also] an experimental
narrative and, yet, it is a narrative, much more narrative than