Waking Life: Wikis


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Waking Life

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Linklater
Produced by Tommy Pallotta
Jonah Smith
Anne Walker-McBay
Palmer West
Written by Richard Linklater
Starring Wiley Wiggins
Kim Krizan
Lorelei Linklater
Trevor Jack Brooks
Timothy "Speed" Levitch
Alex Jones
Music by Glover Gill
Cinematography Richard Linklater
Tommy Pallotta
Editing by Sandra Adair
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s) 23 January 2001
Running time 99 mins
Language English

Waking Life is a digitally enhanced American live-action rotoscoped film, directed by Richard Linklater and released 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. The film was Fox Searchlight Pictures' only production using this technique.

The title is a reference to George Santayana's maxim: "Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled."[1]



Waking Life is about a young man in a persistent lucid dream-like state. He initially observes and later participates in philosophical discussions of issues such as reality, free will, the relationship of the subject with others, and the meaning of life. Along the way the film touches on other topics including existentialism, situationist politics, posthumanity, the film theory of André Bazin, and on lucid dreaming itself.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their characters from Before Sunrise in one scene.[2][3]


The film features appearances from a wide range of actors and non-actors including:

As well as American philosophers:


Adding to the dream-like effect, the film used an animation technique based on rotoscoping.[4] Animators overlaid live action footage (shot by Linklater) with animation that roughly approximates the images actually filmed.[4][5] This technique is similar in some respects to the rotoscope style of 1970s filmmaker Ralph Bakshi. Rotoscoping itself, however, was not Bakshi's invention, but that of experimental silent film maker Max Fleischer, who patented the process in 1917.[6] A variety of artists were employed, so the feel of the movie continually changes, and gets stranger as time goes on. The result is a surreal, shifting dreamscape.

The animators used inexpensive "off-the-shelf" Apple Macintosh computers. The film was mostly produced using Rotoshop, a custom-made rotoscoping program that creates blends between keyframe vector shapes (the name is a play on popular bitmap graphics editing software Photoshop, which also makes use of virtual "layers"), and created specifically for the production by Bob Sabiston. Linklater would again use this animation method for his 2006 film A Scanner Darkly (which was distributed by Warner Independent Pictures).


Waking Life had its theatrical release in January 2001. The film was released on DVD in North America in May 2002. Special features included several commentaries, documentaries, interviews and deleted scenes, as well as the short film Snack and Drink. A bare-bones DVD with no special features was released in Region 2 in February 2003.


Critical reaction to Waking Life has been mostly positive. It holds a rating of 80% across 137 reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes — with critical consensus that "[t]he talky, animated Waking Life is a unique, cerebral experience" — and an average score of 82 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on Metacritic, based on thirty-one reviews.[7][8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, describing it as "a cold shower of bracing, clarifying ideas."[9] Ebert later included the film on his ongoing list of "Great Movies".[10] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly awarded the film an "A" rating, calling it "a work of cinematic art in which form and structure pursues the logic-defying (parallel) subjects of dreaming and moviegoing",[11] while Stephen Holden of The New York Times said it was "so verbally dexterous and visually innovative that you can't absorb it unless you have all your wits about you".[12]

Conversely, J. Hoberman of The Village Voice felt that Waking Life "doesn't leave you in a dream ... so much as it traps you in an endless bull session".[13] Frank Lovece felt the film was "beautifully drawn" but called its content "pedantic navel-gazing".[14]

Nominated for numerous awards, mainly for its technical achievements, Waking Life won the National Society of Film Critics award for "Best Experimental Film," the New York Film Critics Circle award for "Best Animated Film", and the "CinemAvvenire" award at the Venice Film Festival for "Best Film". It was also nominated for the Golden Lion, the festival's main award.


Soundtrack cover

The Waking Life OST was performed and written by Glover Gill and the Tosca Tango Orchestra, except for one piece of Frédéric Chopin's that was used. The soundtrack was relatively successful. Featuring the nuevo tango style, it bills itself "the 21st Century Tango." The tango contributions were influenced by the music of the Argentine "father of new tango" Ástor Piazzolla. The actual tango scores are revised renditions of Ástor Piazzolla's works.

Related topics


  1. ^ Santayana, George (1989). Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press), 156.
  2. ^ 8:40 p.m. ET (2004-07-05). "Hawke and Delpy reunite ‘Before Sunset’ - More news and other features- msnbc.com". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5334809/. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  3. ^ DigitallyObsessed. "dOc Scenes Interview: Dream Life: An Interview With Julie Delpy". Digitallyobsessed.com. http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showinterview.php3?ID=28. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  4. ^ a b Silverman, Jason (19 October 2001). "Animating a Waking Life". [[Wired (magazine)|]]. http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2001/10/47433. Retrieved 30 September 2009.  
  5. ^ Howe, Desson (26 October 2001). "Aroused by Waking Life". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A50955-2001Oct25?language=printer. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  6. ^ US1,242,674 (PDF version) (1917-10-09) Max Fleischer, Method of producing moving-picture cartoons.  
  7. ^ "Waking Life Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/waking_life/. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  8. ^ "Waking Life (2001): Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. http://www.metacritic.com/video/titles/wakinglife. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (19 October 2001). "Waking Life". Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times Media Group). http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20011019/REVIEWS/110190306/1023. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (11 February 2009). "Waking Life". Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times Media Group). http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090211/REVIEWS08/902119997/-1/RSS. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  11. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (18 October 2001). "Waking Life". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.). http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,180109~1~0~wakinglife,00.html. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  12. ^ Holden, Stephen (October 12, 2001). "Surreal Adventures Somewhere Near the Land of Nod". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/12/movies/12WAKI.html. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  13. ^ Hoberman, J. (16 October 2001). "New York Movies - Sleep With Me". The Village Voice (Village Voice Media). http://www.villagevoice.com/2001-10-16/film/sleep-with-me/1. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  
  14. ^ Lovece, Frank. "Waking Life Review". TVGuide.com. http://movies.tvguide.com/waking-life/review/135385. Retrieved 26 May 2009.  


  • Jones, Kent (2007). Physical Evidence: Selected Film Criticism. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. pp. 76–78. ISBN 0819568449.  
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan (2004). "Good Vibrations". Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801878403.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Waking Life is a (2001) American animated film. Screenplay by Richard Linklater Directed by Linklater


Ethan Hawke

  • Whatever I am right now. I mean, yeah, maybe I only exist in your mind. I'm still just as real as anything else.

Little Girl

  • Dream is destiny

Kim Krizan

  • Creation comes out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration. This is where, I think, language came from. I mean, it come from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some connection with one another. It had to be easy when it was just simple survival. “Water.” We came up with a sound for that. “Sabretooth tiger behind you!” We made a sound for that. But when it gets really interesting, I think is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things we’re experiencing. What is “frustration”? Or what is “anger” or “love”? When I say “love” the sound comes out of my mouth and hits the other person’s ear travels through the byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love. They say they understand, but how do I know? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead. You know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet, you know, when we communicate with one another and we feel we have connected and think we’re understood I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. That may be transient, but it’s what we live for.

Louis Mackey

  • Which is the most universal human characteristic: fear, or laziness?
  • Actually, the gap between say Plato or Nietzsche and the average human is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human.

Jason Hodge

  • They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn't you say the same thing about life?

Guy Forsyth

  • The trick is to combine your waking rational abilities with the infinite possibilities of your dreams. Because, if you can do that, you can do anything.
  • The worst mistake that you can make is to think you're alive when really you're asleep in life's waiting room.
  • Did you ever have a job that you hated and worked real hard at? A long, hard day of work. Finally you get to go home, get in bed, close your eyes and immediately you wake up and realize... that the whole day at work had been a dream. It's bad enough that you sell your waking life for minimum wage, but now they get your dreams for free.

John Christensen

  • Super perfundo on the early eve of your day.

Speed Levitch

  • The ongoing WOW is happening right now.
  • And on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.
  • Remembering is so much more of a psychotic activity than forgetting.

Richard Linklater

  • I mean, I'm not saying that you don't know what you're talking about, but I don't know what you're talking about.
  • If you can [wake up], you should, cos y'know, one day you won't be able to, so, but it's easy, just, just... wake up!


  • Man exiting Convenience store: As the pattern gets more intricate and subtle, being swept along is no longer enough.
  • Flaming Guy: The Powers that be want us to be passive observers.
  • Boat Car Guy: The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure while always arriving. Saves on introductions and goodbyes.
  • Alex Jones with loudspeakers on his car: We have got to realize that we are being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging this corporate slave state. The 21st century is going to be a new century. Not the century of slavery; not the century of lies and issues of no significance and classism and statism and all the rest of the modes of control. It's going to be the age of human kind standing up for something pure and something right. What a bunch of garbage! ... liberal, democrat, conservative, republican ... It's all there to control you; two sides of the same coin! Two management teams bidding for control of the CEO job of slavery incorporated. The truth is out there in front of you but they lay out this buffet of lies. I'm sick of it; and I am not going to take a bite out of it! Do you got me?!


Man on the Train: Hey, are you a dreamer?
Wiley: Yeah.
Man on the Train: Haven't seen too many of you around lately. Things have been tough lately for dreamers. They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It's not dead it's just that it's been forgotten, removed from our language. Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. And the dreamer is banished to obscurity. Well, I'm trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day. Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds. Our planet is facing the greatest problems it's ever faced, ever. So whatever you do, don't be bored. This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting.
Man 3: If the world that we are forced to accept is false and nothing is true, then everything is possible.
Man 4: On the way to discovering what we love, we will find everything we hate, everything that blocks our path to what we desire.
Man 2: The comfort will never be comfortable for those who seek what is not on the market. A systematic questioning of the idea of happiness.
Man 1: We'll cut the vocal chords of every empowered speaker. We'll yank the social symbols through the looking glass. We'll devalue society's currency. To confront the familiar.
Man 4: Society is a fraud so complete and venal that it demands to be destroyed beyond the power of memory to recall its existence.
Man 3: Where there is fire we will carry gasoline
Man 4: Interrupt the continuum of everyday experience and all the normal expectations that go with it.
Man 2: To live as if something actually depended on one's actions
Man 1: To rupture the spell of the ideology of commodified consumer society, so our repressed desires of more authentic nature can come forward.
Man 3: To demonstrate the contrast between what life presently is and what it could be.
Man 1: To immerse ourselves in the oblivion of actions and know we're making it happen.
Man 2: There will be an intensity never before known in everyday life to exchange love and hate, life and death, terror and redemption, repulsions and attractions.
Man 3: An affirmation of freedom so reckless and unqualified, that it amounts to a total denial of every kind of restraint and limitation.

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