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Waking Life

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Waking Life
from Film Forum, 11/01/01

Viewers seem much more enthusiastic about the spiritual inquiry that takes place in Waking Life. The movie was shot using digital video, then transformed with a revolutionary animation technique with which artists actually "painted over" the footage to create a surreal yet lifelike cartoon. The central character is Wiley Wiggins, who dreams his way through fantastical conversations and debates about spirituality, society, love, life, and the future. Abandoning conventional plots (as he usually does), director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Before Sunrise) fills this film with lifelike conversations between young people. These colorful chats aim to send you home with new questions and a fresh perspective.

Critics are exhorting skeptical moviegoers to go and take this unusual tour through questions and ideas.

Doug Cummings calls Waking Life "pure joy from start to finish. In the three years of reviewing movies for [Chiaroscuro], I've yet to see a theatrical release more attuned to the spiritual journey or more eager to challenge the audience to consider its theological implications. Is there a better description of 'being born again' than 'waking life'?"

Cornerstone magazine's Mike Hertenstein raves, "One leaves Waking Life with a sense of being awakened to a world worth being awake for: along with a renewed passion to stay awake, live responsibly, and remain open to both others and to wonder."

Mainstream critics express similar exhilaration. Stephen Holden of The New York Times claims, "Waking Life … leaves you buoyed and a little awestruck at the crazy quilt of human experience. It feels like a hearty cinematic slice of America's dream life as it really is."

The Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum writes, "In a world where absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, everything qualifies as a miracle of one sort or another, major or minor, and the business of this movie is to chart as many miracles as possible—dozens, hundreds, even thousands at a time, most of them minor yet exquisite."