One of my favorite movies is Waking Life directed and written by Richard Linklater, and constructed with the help of dozens of animators via Rotoscoping.  Like most of his films, such as the Sunset trilogy, Slacker, and Dazed and Confused, it doesn’t have a strong plot but instead relies on the themes illustrated via vignettes to create structure.  Linklater depends on the investment of his audience to make his movies work.

When I watch Waking Life I feel as if I’m one of the characters floating around the periphery of the action, eavesdropping on conversations and putting the “point” together myself.  Maybe I missing some bits, but I get enough to understand the gist of it.  The plot is gossamer but the dialogue so dense that I go back and watch it again and again and it still feels fresh.  Linklater makes his movies and characters welcoming, so you want to spend more than just one viewing with them.  Each time I take away a different point than before, some line I hadn’t caught or thought about will stand out.


gif from a scene in Waking Life (Source unknown)

I think that at his core Richard Linklater is progressive filmmaker, and he is still trying to communicate with a wide audience.  In addition to the esoteric films mentioned, he’s also responsible for the Jack Black vehicle School of Rock (2003) and The Bad News Bears remake (2005). Linklater isn’t trying to put walls between his ideas and the public, but he realizes that sometimes there are problems getting what he has in his head into the hands of the audience.  This short article from Fast Company is a nice summation of Linklater’s thoughts about storytelling and structure.

Some lines that stood out to me:

  • “Could you tell a story that had no central character but still made sense?” ~Richard Linklater on Slackers.
  • “It’s very straightforward, but in a way that hasn’t been done before, because it’s just completely impractical.” ~Richard Linklater on solving the storytelling problem of Boyhood.
  • “…I’m never trying to confuse anybody. If you establish rules and play by them, the audience will buy in.” ~Linklater
  • he’d been thinking about the idea that turned into the film, Waking Life, for about 20 years. ~Joe Berkowitz
  • “Anything plot-driven feels a little more man-made, more manufactured. I’m always going toward something that’s a little more true to life.” ~Linklater
Let my own lack of a voice be heard

gif from a scene in Waking Life, “The powers that be want us to be passive observers. Hey, you got a match?”