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The Science of Sleep - Michel Gondry interview

The Science of Sleep

Interview by Rob Carnevale

VISIONARY filmmaker Michel Gondry discusses his latest film, The Science of Sleep, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Q. Where did the idea for The Science of Sleep come from?
Michel Gondry: Me! [Laughs loudly]

Q. In that sense, is it a very personal film?
Michel Gondry: Yeah, it’s personal. It’s an experience that I had and I lived. My dream happened and I wanted to confront it. A lot of the time when I showed the dream I wasn’t sure what they meant but it became clear when I edited them.

Q. Did you carry out much research into dreams and the science of sleep?
Michel Gondry: Some, yes. I never really liked the Freudian interpretation of dreams, or the symbolism because it feels a bit contrived and it’s a little bit about controlling people. I liked much more exploring the neurology of dreams, and how the brain works and how you can start to understand it even though it’s still very obscure. So, I looked more into that. There is a sort of scientific approach but I don’t think it’s really a movie about being scientific. It’s really much more romantic than that.

Q. This is the first time you’ve directed from your own screenplay. How satisfying was that?
Michel Gondry: It’s satisfying at the end. During the making, it’s very scary. You feel you’re doing not great, or something very hesitant and you don’t have much confidence. But I was lucky I had a great team around me and the actors were very supportive. They were willing to work with all my hesitation but I think it gave them really great performances.

Q. Gael Garcia Bernal is terrific in the film. I guess you really needed an actor that was going to throw himself into the material with no reservations…
Michel Gondry: Exactly…

Q. I think viewers will see a completely different side to him as an actor, don’t you?
Michel Gondry: He has been a comedic actor but I think this is a great mixture of comedy and drama. You really feel for him, I think.

Q. Did he take much convincing? Did you have to really explain the concept to him?
Michel Gondry: I don’t think the concept was a problem. I think he just wanted to make sure I took my project seriously enough before he committed. He needs time to become acquainted with the director and it’s not something he takes lightly, it’s very important to him. But we became really close friends through this process so it was a good thing.

Q. And Charlotte Gainsbourg… was she always a first choice given her musical background?
Michel Gondry: Charlotte is great. She’s one of the best actresses in France I’ve seen since I was a kid. I mean, she’s younger than me but she started so young. But she brings so much [to The Science of Sleep] in a quiet way. She’s like a big star in a quiet skin.

Q. Have you found the success of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind has helped to open doors for you and get films like The Science of Sleep made?
Michel Gondry: Yeah, of course. I totally used the success of Eternal Sunshine to be able to do a movie that would have been very difficult to put together before because I asked people to trust me 100% without any guarantee.

Read our review of The Science of Sleep