Having rewatched it a little bit older, I came to this interpretation.
The overall story is about a man struggling with defining happiness.
The twist: The entire movie is a dream sequence from the beginning, where the only non-dream scene is the end when Aames wakes up. The main characters (save a few) are creations of the dream to help him examine his life.
#1 - In the final rooftop scene, tech support tells him that he created characters and relationships in his mind from movies, images and songs that impacted him. He proves this by willing the character of McCabe to appear, exposing McCabe as a creation of his mind. Then, he wills Brian to appear and finally Sofia. (Yet no one else, Julie, the board members, Tipp appear)
So I come to the conclusion that Brian, McCabe, Sofia are characters to help him reexamine his life.
#2 - Aames registration sticker on his car reads 2/30/01 - a date that doesn't exist
#3 - The fantastical nature of the frozen storyline is more believable if you believe that it is actually a dream sequence.
#4 - Waking up because you are jolted from a fall in your dream is common. And it's explained that Aames programmed this as his way of waking up from the frozen state - or he could just be dreaming.
AAMES - A man struggling with figuring out what makes him happy and how he should treat people. He loses his number one weapon, his vanity, and is forced to reflect inside. He wears a mask (a barrier) to hide, and yet when he refocuses his life with Sofia, everything is right again. The doctors can miraculously fix his face and he is happy. But as his mind starts to realize that he is dreaming (or suspect it), his insecurity returns, thus his scars appear and disappear without his control and he hides behind a mask again.
Brian and Aames are essentially the same person, where Brian represents a less confident, egoless version of his personality. Aames is the cocky persona that lacks empathy.
#1 - Brian gets upset at Aames for stealing Sofia from him, hinting that this always happens when he gets drunk at the party. Brian also proclaims that Julie is his dream girl, yet to Aames she's just another f*ckbuddy. His cocky, asshole side seems to always win.
#2 - It's revealed that Brian works for Aames at the party. Brian tells Aames that he owns him because he pays him to write. Aames responds that it is untrue, and that Brian is brilliant and doesn't realize it yet. As they are the same person, Aames does indeed pay himself. Aames struggles with continuing his fathers legacy, and Brian's lack of confidence shows that.
#3 - In a scene at the bar, Brian is shown as a 3rd wheel while Aames and Sofia are affectionately embracing. Brian, without any real explaination, is observing them with a camera. Possibly finally seeing himself as a changed man.
#4 - The lines blur between the two personalities when Brian bails Aames out of jail dressed in much fancier clothes. Brian repeats something he's said throughout the film - I'm you're only friend.
SOFIA - Sofia is a collection of memories idealized to help Aames refocus his life.
#1 - Sofia's voice appears at the very beginning on his alarm clock telling him to open his eyes. If we are to assume that the cryogenic storyline is true, this is still before he meets Sofia.
Sofia's voice is actually the prerecorded alarm clock, which is where his mind got her voice from. We are given a clue when Aames scolds Julie for recording over his alarm again, possibly mocking its message.
#2 - In Sofia's apartment, Aames looks at photos of her life and proclaims he likes it. You'll notice that the photo of her and her parents, the parents look nothing like her. Later in the film, it's revealed that the photos are Julies. And that he's been mixing them both up somehow. This is because part of Sofia's character is Aame's experience and memories of Julie.
#3 - We are shown at the end that Aames took Sofia's quirky mannerisms from films in the revelation sequences by Tech Support.
#4 - In the nightclub scene, Sofia is wearing a shirt that says St. Rose - who happens to be the Patron Saint of Vanity.
#5 - On the final rooftop scene, it's suggested that Aames understands that when he wakes up she won't be there. While we're told that this is because it's 150 years into the future, it is actually because she is an idealized character created in his dream. He makes peace with it by suggested they will meet in another lifetime, maybe, when they're both cats.
We are basically told McCabe is fake as he cannot remember his daughters names.
Julie appears in the film as a representation of Aames constant poor choice making. He calls her 'his stalker', something that constantly follows him around. He learns this lesson as he is shown the possibility of happiness with Sofia, yet gets sucked in and takes a ride with Julie resulting in his disfigurement.
Aames is dreaming the entire movie (save for the last scene of his eyes opening). The characters he interacts with are parts of his personality and/or characters his mind creates to help him see the errors of his ways.
The frozen story line with Lucid Dreaming stems from him watching the story about the dog on t.v., and is a way of explaining what's going on in his dream to himself. He becomes self aware of the dream and falls to wake himself up.
After re-watching this film for the first time in years, the sequence of events and the meaning of the story became quite apparent to me:
David has everything: all the money in the world, good looks, charm, any girl he wants. But that still isn’t enough, and he takes the girl that his best friend, Brian, had just met and is really into, Sofia.
Everyone in David’s life is in one way or another employed by him through the company that his father had left him, including his best friend Brian. So, David becomes accustom to treating everyone in his life as an employee, even though he never earned that position. David has no real friends, and never learned what it means to be a friend. He is the boss to everyone in his life, and anything that he wants is his, and no one is going to tell him he cant have it.
He treated his “fuck buddy,” Julie, this way. She was clearly madly in love with him, but he refused to acknowledge it, and would only use her the same way he used everyone else in his life. He got away with treating people like this his whole life.
After the night that he meets Sofia, David appears to falls in love with her, and for the first time in his life feels humility. But this is too little too late, because the next morning, Julia breaks down after seeing David spending the night with Sophia, and wrecks her car with David in it, killing herself and mangling David’s face.
After facial reconstructive surgery, David the vain person that he is, realizes that he cannot continue to live with his altered physical appearance. In addition, when Sophia does not respond to him the same way as she did prior to the accident, David elects to preserve his body at a cryogenics lab until a time in the future when medical technology advances enough to restore his face the way that it was before the accident. (It appears as if David does not consider that Sophia will not be there when he is brought back to life sometime in the future; this is because he really does not care about her.)
From early on in the film, scenes weave back and forth from prior to and post David cryo preserving himself. The post cryo scenes are confusing to the viewer, as it does not become apparent as to what they really mean until later on in the film. The post cryo scenes are a dreamlike state that begin the moment after David commits himself to the cryo lab. This dreamlike state is called “Lucid Dream,” and is a new technology offered by the cryo lab that allows the patient to live in a dreamlike state that is programmed to their specifications and lasts the duration of the time they are preserved. David’s specifications are: the life he was living prior to the accident, in a happy relationship with Sophia.
The lucid dream starts out for David as planned, but in an unexpected turn for the worse, the Lucid Dream turns into a Lucid Nightmare, as David begins to treat Sophia the same way he treated Julie, and all of the other women he ever had in his life. Hating himself for this, he kills Sophia by suffocating her with a pillow while in bed. (In this scene, Sophia is represented as Julie, Julie being a general representation for all women in his life. By killing Sophia, David is subconsciously killing a part of himself that he hates. Sophia is not special to him, just like Julia was not special to him, no women will ever be special to him because he lacks humility.) Thus this “Lucid Nightmare” is in fact still his “Lucid Dream,” in that they both represent his real life, as he requested at the cyro lab. Throughout the dream-state, David begins to see himself as others see him, and begins to realize the ugly person he really is (even with a beautiful face).
At the end of the film, David kills himself in his dreamlike state by jumping off of a skyscraper, in turn reintroducing himself to his real life, as he is now ready face life knowing that he needs to change: the ugliness on his inside, not the outside.
The point of the movie is to disorient you. The story intentionally fragments itself, twisting back and forth in time, jumbling its varied plot elements until you no longer know which way is up. Basically, if you sit through most of this movie without a clue as to what's happening, the film is doing its job. At exactly the two hour mark, I looked at my watch and thought that the movie would never be able to explain everything to my satisfaction in the remaining fifteen minutes. Then it turned around and did just that.
The explanation is spooky and ethereal. At first, it seems like it comes from way out in left field. Once I thought about it, though, it made perfect sense. Every piece of the story's puzzle gives you a clue. This is a story about David, how he changes, and why he changes. When the surprise revelation was made, I understood that Vanilla Sky wants to examine our perceptions of our own happiness, as well as what we will do to maintain those perceptions.
David's dream starts when he kills himself after the accident.(he takes pills) The contract he has with Lucid Dreams comes in and his life becomes a dream while his body is frozen. But David's dream becomes nasty and he encounters an unpleasant existence in which he kills Sofia,gets arrested.He wakes from this dream,many years later, and is given a choice as to continuing with the dream ,which will be repaired to perfection and have in it Sofia again, or go to a real life in which he will experience new things,new loves,get his face fixed and live a normal life. David chooses the latter.As he says in the movie, :"I want to live a real life".
The movie speaksfor itself. At the beginning of the movie, it shows David started his lucid dream ( I believe the splice is the point where he begins his life with Sophia-a woman who worked for his dentist). He has created his lucid dream to try and make things right-finally getting the nerve to ask Sophia out instead of following her around and to finally get rid of Juliana who constantly used him. His friend Brian is his true self and David created the riched and fame as a mirage. Everything in the movie was symbolic and nothing we've watched or heard was politically correct. At the end of the movie, he gets to do it all again but with a different scenario.
It seems to me that the main message the movie is trying to make is that we are creating our own reality. The movie is set up with all kinds of levels, but the truth is that the subject is dreaming up all of it. One big hint of this is that David's cars (the dream car and the "waking life" Mustang) have stickers on them showing an impossible date: Feb 30th. As the song says (or rather Julie's cell phone ring tone), "Life is but a dream." Dreams within dreams.
I think the important clues are in the beginnings of the film.
When Dave is driving fast and they almost crash - his friend says ' my life flashed before my eyes - but it was your life'.
I think David died in the crash with Julie (the situation was real until then) - and thereafter what we are seeing is a brain trying desperately to resolve issues of existence and happiness in the few microseconds before it dies.
At the beginning David says to the psychologist - (his own creation) - the young think they are going to live forever.
At the point of his impending death - David realises he won't live forever and tries to fix that by inventing Life Extension to keep him alive.
The 'dream' sequence that follows is an ultra rapid examination of his like and his sefishness.
The story and the events happen in his brain as quickly as a brief thought - and his acceptance of his fear of heights - dying - is resolved when he jumps.
He has accepted he will die and the bright flash of light at the end of the fall is symbolic of the light at the end of the tunnel.
That is what I thought when I first saw it last night.
A brain in it's death throes examining the nature of existence and the meaning of happiness and love.
I should like to think there was a happy ending where he was in a coma all the time, then awoke with new self understanding - but I can't see that at all.
No coma or frozen suspension.
A bit late, but watching this movie and reading your theories. But the name "Ellie" is not a name, but it is L.E. which is the word for Life Extension, which is the company that froze him to keep him alive and fix his face and let him relive his best memories in his lucid dream.
ellie = l.e. the firm
during the movie sophia states that she is going to her job as a dental hygenist, at the end of the movie the "tech support" guy is wearing a white coat, this will explain why at the end of the movie he is supposedly 150 years in the future but still hearing sophia's voice tell him to wake up, it's because he is at the dentist on drugs and the whole time he was dreaming while getting his teeth worked on.
it's not my own theory, it's steve's but it sounds correct
The entire movie is a dream. We've all had external influences in our dreams. There are instances throughout the movie where his dream is incorporating external stimulation. His alarm clock, late night talk shows etc. We've all had dreams where we've felt like we lived an entire segment of our life, falling in love, losing that love, having a drastic physical change to our appearance that causes us to be insecure, killing someone, falling off something. This is just a play on that. Not hard to understand that up until the last moment was a dream.
Underrated movie. Worth a re-watch for sure. Good analysis here: www.thisismytherapy.com/interpreting-vanilla-sky
not "Ellie" but "LE" for Life Extension maybe? interesting to think that he wasn't calling for "Ellie" but referring to who he made a deal with..
The first time I watched this movie, I
hated it. Then I decided to watch it
again. Now, it is my new favorite movie.
I have watched it several times, because
each time I pull out more meaning. This
is the story of a man dreaming, and
as in dreams, all the characters are
really aspects of himself. It is
actually a very good movie to watch if
your studying "A Course In Miracles."
It helps us to examine what is reality,
and what is an illusion. In reality,
all form (including the people that seem
to be in our lives)is really an illusion. We are really with God, but
dreaming we are in exile.
I agree so much with the above comment of spirituality. It is we all live in things we create with our minds. Every action every person ever encounter we have is caused by what our mind concentrates on. We are in control of our lives. we just need to know how to. and that was the lesson and more
The story is totally "spiritual" in meaning.
It is scrambled and jumbled so as not to be direct
to the viewer, as all true teachings are taught in
patables, that is, not readily apparent meanings.
The movie is showing, to sll seekers, the "truth of
life". I repeat, its visible to "seekers", as a famous
One said once somewhere, "Seek and you shall find".
The meaning is: life is a dream, either good, bad, or
in between, according as we think each day.
The call to wake up is to all.
With each passing moment, we can change our
course of life, our curcumstances.
Clues and revelations to this abound throughout
Wake up! Don't love your life? Change what you
imagine (images you look at in your mind).
I thought he was in a coma. While in the coma he thought of the girl and happiness he wanted. Then when the bad took over it was a sign of him coming back to earth, waking up from that coma. At the end is when he wakes up from the hospital from his coma. Everything was true up until the crash happen. Once again this is what i thought. but everybody that posted their meaning makes sense. peace!
I like all of your interpretations. Remember that Aames just turned 33, the supposed year that Jesus was hung on the cross.
why is everyone saying that it was all a dream, when in the end of the movie its explained to us? He was depressed about his face and everything that happened to him, so he found LE on the internet and made a deal. Thats why he drunk the pills, so that he can die and start living the dream. What was erased was after the night he got out with Sofia and Brian, and thats when the dreaming begun....
It's simple its all a dream
Why is everyone so certain that he dies? Or does anything else in the movie for that matter? It starts with an alarm clock going off and ends with one. Maybe ALL of it is a dream.