“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
Cinematographer: Ellen Kuras
When their relationship takes a bad turn, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with. This is the unique, surreal story of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It is a tale for the idealists and the romantics, the ones who believe in love at first sight, soul mates and destiny. The couple, Joel and Clementine, met on a train, flirted and eventually knew that it was fate which brought them together. But now, they are running out of time and they know they will never be able to meet again. Most films might choose to highlight this kind of heartbreak with the death of a loved one or a bittersweet farewell at a train station. But Charlie Kaufman is bored with these clichés and instead, delves into the complexities of the human mind and the capability of memory. The film is far from following chronological order; there are flashbacks, memories being jumbled up, the past becoming the present, the future becoming the past. Joel is literally running through his memories and stumbling upon Clementine’s as well. These dream sequences are dizzy, fast, and all over the place. The viewer has to pay close attention to the plot in order to fully grasp the film’s concept, but that is what a film should make you do.
The acting is superb on all levels, with Jim Carey and Kate Winslet fitting naturally into their roles and bringing a quirky uniqueness to the story. The writing is also remarkable; the dialogue varies from humorous to dramatic to poignant. I think it’s the realistic aspect and natural quality of the writing that makes the script so captivating. Some of my most favorite quotes come from this movie. But out all the great qualities I have listed describing this film, the artistic vision of the director and cinematographer and the final execution of it, is what drew me into the movie the most. It definitely screams “low budget, indie” film, as the quality of the look of the film is not high end, but that is what t makes it unique. The scenes move throughout the two characters’ memories and shows their different perspectives on certain events that occur in the movie (no spoilers here). And the way these scenes are filmed is visually creative. There is one scene, towards the end, which shows a house falling apart as the ocean water slowly enters the house, and the camera captures Jim Carey’s actions and reactions as he wanders through the house while Kate’s voice can be heard talking to him from somewhere else. It is more powerful than switching back and forth between Kate and jim, because it contrasts Jim Carey’s desperation in his movements and words with Kate’s oblivious, far away dialogue. I posted that scene last Wednesday for the scene of the week so check it out, if you haven’t already 🙂
“Sunshine” expresses how people should approach and examine a relationship, in that it is not the superficial features but the underlying memories that make it all worthwhile. When a relationship hits the inevitable, that unfortunate moment where everything seems to be breaking apart, we seem to instantly recoil and intensify the negative aspects of the other person. The memory erasing procedure symbolizes this reaction; it brings to life what everyone would want to do if it actually existed. What “Eternal Sunshine” expresses is that sometimes, when examining the relationship, it is discovered that the happier memories outweigh the bad ones, and this is precisely what people should consider when deciding whether or not to continue a relationship. The film promotes the ideology of living within the present and letting things play out, instead of missing out on opportunities because it’d be easier to avoid a mess. Joel and Clementine’s relationship was becoming strained and things were getting messy, but they took that negative time in their life and looked only at the present circumstances and negative aspects of each other. It is halfway through his procedure that Joel realizes there were more good times than bad and that Clementine was everything to him. He knew then, that yes he would get rid of the troubled memories, but he’d also forget the incredible ones.
While it is a messy and confusing film, it is also one that allows us to mediate on our perception of love, memory and relationships. The writing and the concept of this film is beyond interesting and creative. It takes a very profound and imaginative thinker to be able to pen a story like this.