I decided to sit with this film for a bit because it's a lot to process. Looking through ratings from people I follow I see that this is a very divisive film and I can certainly see why. Some see it as a brilliant and moving exploration through the human psyche and some see it as self indulgent nonsense. I think it's both at the same time and I love this movie to death if I'm being entirely honest.
Last semester in film school I had a teacher say that the most important aspect to a film was the plot and that the film was able to tell a good story. I'm usually quiet in class but it was one of those times I raised my hand to question her on that. I asked her, "can you tell me what the plot to Eraserhead is?" and she told me that it was a different case with David Lynch, he was his own genre. I rebutted, "the most important aspect of a film is to make you feel something. That's it." Later in that semester, we got midterm tests and one of the extra credit questions was, "what is the most important aspect of film?" I stubbornly wrote down, "to make the audience feel something- to quote Charlie Chaplin a picture with a smile and perhaps a tear." She crossed through my answer and wrote "THE PLOT" so I guess she never took to account what I was saying.
I wish I would have seen this film last semester because I would have brought it up. This film in the simplest sense is a kid stuck in lucid dreams, however the film slowly unravels this. Most of the film operates as a trip alternative to the Before Trilogy. It's a bunch of discussion on theology, the meaning of life, purpose, ethics and the dread we all carry everyday. There's so much to unpack here and I'm not sure how much of it is just word soup. However, a lot of these quandaries had weight and felt like they meant something. A lot of this film feels like listening to a Joe Rogan podcast where he interviews actual intellectuals and they get into the fundamentals of existentialism. Some of it is just indulgent but there's also a lot there brimming at the surface.
My favorite scene in the film is in a movie theatre where the kid watches a film where a filmmaker is describing how the best films are controlled by character and not conflict. This was preached a lot by Truffant and it is shown in his early works like '400 Blows'. I think it also perfectly describes why Richard Linklaters films all feel so alive in their own way. It's not about what happens but who it happens to and I find that to be a trivial part of making a good film.
Is this film a bit messy and uneven? Sure. I feel although it's like a huge art project. They colored outside the lines and I for one loved the picture it showed.