Metaphysician, Heal Thyself

Richard Linklater’s Interpretation of Dreams

The creative experience, not even the film that results from it, is what gets Linklater out of bed in the morning. Working fast and loose is half the party: The adaptation of Stephen Belber's play Tape, which trapped Linklater and his camera in a motel room with Uma Thurman, Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke, was shot quickly on digital video (as was the live-action source footage of Waking Life). "Tape came up rather spontaneously during the postproduction of Waking Life," says Linklater. "We spent pretty much the whole calendar year of 2000 animating Waking Life, and once the artists had locked in the character designs, my responsibilities were less and less. It got pretty tedious; I would've gone crazy last year if it weren't for Tape. We rehearsed it for a few weeks, shot it in one, it was just that kind of movie. I loved it; I could do two films a year for life."

The thicket of conflicting information in Waking Life suggests that if Linklater isn't the most libertine reader in American film culture, he at least makes the most of what he's consumed. "I read all the time, but not nearly enough. For Waking Life, it was great: I had to immerse myself into all this scientific stuff, psychology and dreams and quantum physics. I just finished this book about near-death experiences: The author explains exactly what's going on in your brain, chemically. So many people go, oh, I left my body and went to a real place and came back. It's like: Well, no, you didn't, here's what was going on in your brain at that moment. I have to keep myself in check, though. I don't want to invalidate people's experience because I truly believe in the experience. I think our 'unreal' experiences are very valid and important; I think we need to go through life and not be too materialistic about it, and think, 'Oh, it's not valid if it's not real.' That's all it is: Be kind to your imaginative self."

"Me, I’m a promiscuous thinker."
Photograph by K.C.Bailey
"Me, I’m a promiscuous thinker."

Related articles:
J. Hoberman's review of Waking Life
"Amazed and Confused at Sundance," by Amy Taubin

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