Waking Life (2001)
★★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Richard Linklater (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset”), “Waking Life” is an animated film that tackles deep questions about what life is and how it is like to live one’s life. Although it is essentially an animated film, it is very adult in its approach to tell a story of a guy (Wiley Wiggins) who “wakes up” in his dream and into other dreams without knowing whether he’s conscious or awake in “real life.” I admired that this film actively does not confine itself into the kind of Hollywood filmmaking where there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Just like the look of the picture, the story flows and moves like water, which enhances the film’s overall craft because the issues that it tackles are very abstract. And it also helped because the main character is in a dream. I particularly liked the scene when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their characters from “Before Sunrise” and had a deeper conversation about what was said in that movie. It really made me think about why, when we dream, time feels endless but in actuality we’ve slept for a very limited amount of time. That constant theme of there having to be something more to life than rules and meaning is explored in such a deep and intellectual way to the point where I found myself struggling to keep up because I wanted to savor the conversations. While I admit that I did not fully understand some of the concepts that they discussed and the names they dropped, it made me want to read up on such topics and people that are unfamiliar. This is a thinking man’s movie and definitely not for people who constantly have to have action scenes thrown at them. The power of this unique-looking film lies in the words and the exaggerated, almost expressionistic, images to highlight the transient meanings of the implications. My only main problem with it is that I felt as though part of the last third somewhat felt apart because it did not fully integrate some of the biggest themes that pervaded the rest of the movie. Still, I’m going to give “Waking Life” a recommendation because it was able to incite various insights on how to communicate and see (or feel?) the world in unfamiliar and not fully explained perspectives.
Flow: For Love of Water (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★
When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to come out and never really think about where the water comes from or what’s in it. I just assume it’s safe to use in a variety of ways because there’s a group of people in the government that regulates the purity of the water. This film warns us that that kind of thinking cannot be any more wrong (there’s actually rocket fuel in our water sources).
But this documentary, directed by Irena Salina, goes beyond that issue. It manages to talk about drought in developing nations and what people do to fight such a crisis, the role of corporations in damaging not only the environment but also when it comes to their active deprivation of water from people who live near their factories, and the chemicals that are in our water supply that contribute to record number of birth defects and deaths of children under five years old. The film has a certain energy–a certain anger–that made me think about what I do (including my friends and family) to help out such corporations that literally rob others from leading healthy lives. It made me rethink about my years in elementary school when we learned about the roles of dams in our science textbooks. In such texts, they highlight the positive impacts of dams (like rerouting water to areas where people do not get water) but fail to address factors like displacing people that used to live in those areas prior the establishment of the dams; how the water becomes stagnant and eventually creates methane gas which then contributes to global warming; how the use of dams can help privatize water so corporations can make profit from something transient. There’s a wise person in the film that talks about how something transient–like the air and sunlight–cannot be owned (and therefore sold) because it belongs to everyone. Why, then, do corporations still sell bottled water if water is a basic necessity to live?
The film also shows an experiment where people cannot tell the difference regarding the taste between tap water and bottled water. When, in fact, there has been a great number of support that bottled water is much less regulated than tap water. I don’t believe that tap water is less healthy than bottled water but most of my friends and family do. I guess it’s the way water is presented and sold: water being in a “clean” plastic bottle (that has an image of a mountain and stream wrapped around it) looks better than water coming from tap. Yes, it can be argued that this picture appeals to emotion more than it should, but the images of rivers of blood (because factories just dump biohazards into the rivers without any attempt to neutralize them) more than speak for themselves. If you know of someone that’s still stuck in this idea that water is an endless resource, go show him or her this film. Even though that person may not change his or her mind completely (though I doubt it), at least he or she will be more aware of what’s going on in the world–why people go to war against their governments just so they can have pure water to drink. (To sign the petition for Right to Water, visit: http://article31.org)