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DAILY DISPATCH FROM BERLIN: Gondry’s “Sleep,” Takashi Miike Goes Violent, and Cillian Murphy Talks “

DAILY DISPATCH FROM BERLIN: Gondry's "Sleep," Takashi Miike Goes Violent, and Cillian Murphy Talks "

French director Michel Gondry traveled from Utah to Berlin – along with many others here – in support of his surreal love story, “The Science of Sleep” starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The mostly English-language film, shot in France, is the story of Stephane (Bernal) who returns to his hometown to take a job and begins a relationship with his neighbor. The job does not quite pan out as expected, but his relationship blossoms, fed by his fantastic dream-life. Although life seems to be on the upswing, his anxieties again manifest. The film uses a multi-tiered look inside the mind of the Bernal’s character, filled with fear, hope and desire. It was quickly acquired for U.S. distribution by Warner Independent Pictures after its Sundance debut last month.

Get the latest news, buzz and iPOP photos from the Berlinale in indieWIRE’s special Berlin International Film Festival section.

“This was the most challenging role [I’ve done],” said Bernal at a packed press conference Saturday evening prior to the film’s official public screening. “Although I suppose every role is a challenge.” Bernal went on to say that portraying the complexities of the character was new terrain for him as an actor, but also alluded to another complicated role he played three years ago in Pedro Almodovar‘s “Bad Education” as a very different challenge. “My [acting] craftsmanship was challenged in ‘Bad Education.’ Those high heels for example (laughs)… And I’m not even going to get into the thong [I wore] and all that…”

Gondry said the film’s story, which he wrote over a period of eight years, was created in part by his own difficulties sleeping earlier in life. “I used to have bad dreams, so I decided if I’m going to have them, I may as well make a living from them.” Like the characters in the film, Gondry said during the press conference he feels there is a disparity in his personality, which helps drive his creative expression.

“Being an artist is by definition compensating for an imbalance. Actors [also] become actors to compensate for an imbalance and represent normalcy.” Gondry then joked about Hollywood celebrities depicting everyday life. “Hollywood actors don’t have a ‘normal’ life, yet they’re employed to act ‘normal.'”

In developing the project, Gondry said it was crucial for him to have a bond with his lead actor, and credited Bernal for the ultimate outcome in creating the story. “It was important for Gael and me to find out what we had in common. Recently, I worked with someone in which we didn’t have a commonality, and he [ultimately] didn’t like the clip I did for him. I started [this] story which was more constricted, [but] Gael encouraged me to use a dream that I once had [and] he pushed me hard to go with my instinct and go in this direction.”

Referring to dreams, Bernal described flying as one of his favorite dreams, something he said that most people could relate to. “I think everybody has their own technique,” he said chuckling. “I have to run a little bit, then breathe in, then flap my arms, but not like a bird, and then it’s up and up and up… Then you just hover.” He then asked the crowd how they feel when a good dream is interrupted. “Have you ever had a dream you like, and someone wakes you up and you’re like… fuck!”

On the subject of his career, Gondry said he never expected to be a film director and said acceptance by the French film establishment came slowly. For this project, however, he said he was pleased to film in France and found more autonomy working there compared to his last project in America. “In America, I was used to working with actors and others who are very strong. In France, I had complete freedom. [With] ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,’ I had to digest opposite opinions between the producers and Jim Carrey.”

Takashi Miike Chat About “Love”

Japanese director Takashi Miike‘s prison drama “Big Bang Love,” screening in the festival’s Panorama section, was the spotlight at an earlier press conference, Saturday. Like Gondry, Takashi also referred to an imbalance. “When I was a child, I had a feeling there was a disconnect, and when I started [my craft] I felt I never fit in.” Nevertheless, Takashi has received praise at home and abroad for his work, and is even planning his next moves.

Filmmaker Takashi Miike, right, at a Berlinale press conference. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

“I have a few films I’d like to do,” said Takashi speaking through an interpreter. “For instance, I’d like to shoot a Japanese ‘Italo-Western’ film in Japan. I’d like [it] to be even more violent then Hong Kong films.”

Breakfast on Pluto

Although the film has already opened in both the U.S. and at home in Ireland, “Breakfast on Pluto” actor Cillian Murphy traveled to Berlin to do the last bit of international press for the film, directed by Neil Jordan. Jordan was absent from the press conference reportedly because of a fever, but Murphy was joined by producer Alan Moloney for a conversation about the film about a foster kid who leaves behind his small town life in Ireland to move to London where he reinvents himself as a cabaret singer and transvestite. Murphy spent time with transvestites before taking on his role as Kitten.

“After spending time with transvestites, I found the thing they wan most in life is simple. [They want] to be loved, accepted and to look pretty. Yet they have such a hard time for some reason. They get screamed at a lot in the streets, so they [develop] a strong wit in order to [cope].” Murphy received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor for his role in the film.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Brian Brooks is the Associate Editor of indieWIRE.

Get the latest news, buzz and iPOP photos from the Berlinale in indieWIRE’s special Berlin International Film Festival section.

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