Waking Life is a digitally enhanced live action rotoscoped film, directed by Richard Linklater and made in 2001. The entire film was shot using digital video and then a team of artists using computers drew stylized lines and colors over each frame. This technique is similar in some respects to the rotoscope style of 1970s filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, which was invented in the 1920s. The title is a reference to George Santayana's maxim that "Sanity is a madness put to good use; waking life is a dream controlled."
In a broad scope, Waking Life is about a young man in a persistent lucid dream-like state. The film follows its protagonist as he initially observes and later participates in philosophical discussions that weave together issues like appearance and reality, free will, our relationships with others, and the meaning of life. Along the way the film touches on other topics including existentialism, situationist politics, posthumanity, and the film theory of André Bazin. The young man eventually comes to realize the possibility that the reason he is unable to wake up is because he is dead. The film ends on an ambiguous note, and in the commentary track, director Richard Linklater states that he never intended for people to think the protagonist was dead. Unsurprisingly, given the above themes and content, Waking Life is much more focused on dialogue (often even monologue) than on plot action. In this emphasis, it echoes the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre and the 1990 film Mindwalk. Long scenes in Waking Life consist of nothing but head shots of characters expounding on philosophical questions. The characters and their speech are very reminiscent of Linklater's earlier cult classic, Slacker. (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy even appear as their characters from Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset)
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