Michel Gondreams: The dreamy cinematic world of Michel Gondry

The distinctive French director returns with another unique yet universal reverie.

Feature by Nathanael Smith | 24 Feb 2014

“Tonight,” declares Stéphane, the hero of The Science of Sleep, “I’ll show you how dreams are prepared.” This witty, audacious claim (itself said within a dream) could well be interpreted as Michel Gondry’s mission statement. His oeuvre is characterised by dreams and dreamers; not the carefully considered mindscapes of Inception, however, but something far more chaotic and vibrant, closer to the places we really go when we sleep.

Gondry, more than many directors, realises the potential of cinema to express the irrational and instinctive aspects of the brain. From his breakout second feature Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where the third act takes place in the memories of its protagonists, to The We and the I, set almost entirely on a bus as the hopes and fears of school kids are exposed during one long journey, Gondry taps into a common humanity through the way we think. Even in his more commercial but less loved films like Be Kind, Rewind and The Green Hornet, the French director grapples with ambition and obsession, lending his unique visual flair to less inspired material.

Mood Indigo, adapted from the Boris Vian novel Froth on the Daydream, sees Gondry at his most abstract since The Science of Sleep. It’s about a dreamer and inventor who falls in love with a woman with a lily in her lungs. Dance, flights of fancy and the kind of visuals Tim Burton would create if he were happier all around, showing that Gondry has lost none of his creativity or invention.

Perhaps the appeal of Gondry’s films lies in the fact that everyone dreams, so there is something universal about the worlds he creates. “In dreams, emotions are overwhelming,” observes Stéphane, and once more the very same could be said for Gondry’s films themselves. With Mood Indigo, it’s time for us all to dream again.