Waking Life

Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriters: Richard Linklater

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


As talented a filmmaker as Richard Linklater, the creator of such exceptional independent features as Slacker, Before Sunrise, and subUrbia, is critically acknowledged to be, it's likely that his greatness as an artist lies before him. Waking Life is the kind of door-opening visionary work that propels you into new realms and fully establishes Linklater as one of the preeminent voices from the generation destined to reinvent the cinema. For Linklater, filmmaking has always been a multilayered universe that combines visual and ideational exploration and tests the limits of conventional drama, which shackle so many of his peers.

Especially admirable is Linklater's fearlessness; it allows him to attempt the kinds of projects that established filmmakers speak of endlessly but rarely commit to celluloid. Waking Life is not just experimentation for its own sake but groundbreaking work that interweaves dreamlike animation and free-floating dialogues on existence, dreams, life, and consciousness with an entertaining fly-on-the-wall examination of people's inner lives. The film is full of ideas and quasi-philosophical inquiries, but it is far from an academic treatise. Indeed, what makes it interesting is its absence of a definitive point of view. It is instead a whimsical and absorbing walk down diverse mental highways.

Using an innovative animation technique that digitally paints on real imagery, much like old-fashioned rotoscoping, Waking Life is storytelling without narrative, a generational quest for answers that engages and satisfies us in the same way that My Dinner with Andre did for an earlier generation.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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