IN SEATTLE to discuss not one but two new films, Austin auteur Richard Linklater emphasized that Waking Life isn't intended to be a Ph.D seminar. "I certainly didn't want it to seem didactic or telling you what to believe," he says. "It was more like the aesthetic of ideas. These ideas aren't so obscure. They're things you ask yourself when you're 8."
Nor is the movie meant as some surrealist exercise, he continues. "It has a firm foundation in reality. It's so in the real world, seemingly, even though it's not. I was trying to capture the realism of your memories or how you proceed through your thoughts or dreams. You accept it as real, even if it is kind of fantastic."
Yet, Linklater notes, the animation's fantastical quality is integral to the project: "The animation gives it a certain buoyancy. The ideas come alive in a certain way. The story preceded the idea of animating it, probably by like 18 or 20 years. There was a reason I hadn't made the film—because it didn't really work live action."
And what of Waking's seemingly haphazard structure? "I think it's an interesting time for storytelling . . . in this kind of digital, nonlinear age. We're stuck to linearity, but . . . I think [the movie is] trying to approximate the way our minds actually work: the way you digress in your own thinking; the way your attention shifts; the way you can contain a lot of contradictory thoughts and impulses. You can actually contain opposites and embrace both. The lead character [Wiley] is the structure of it. That's the narrative."
Curiously, Linklater muses, Tape (Nov. 16) also examines the vagaries of consciousness, even though, at first glance, "It couldn't have been two more extreme positions on the reality spectrum." Set in a motel room, the three-character drama has Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Robert Sean Leonard playing old high-school pals uneasily rehashing an old trauma. Based on a one-act play and shot in only six days, the DV film is about "the politics of apology," Linklater adds, complicated by the unreliability of memory.