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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Reflecting on ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

All we have is our memories. They're all we can really base anything on. I guess we have the current moment, and that's pretty cool. But you can't help but be shaped by what came before. So what if you really could erase it; wipe out someone you used to love? I think what makes it an appealing thing is not so much removing someone's face from your memory, it's removing all the marks they left. All the crap that comes up every time you meet someone new. Know what I mean?

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is one of the greatest films ever. I am saying that now, at this moment, only minutes after watching the film again. If calling it 'one of the greatest films ever' is ridiculous, then it's ridiculous and so be it. But right now,
in this moment, I'm in love with it. I have not had an experience like this with a film in quite a long time.


The film is about memories. It's funny because -- I'm not sure how well I know this film. I'm not sure how many times I've seen it and how much I enjoyed it in the past. Watching it just now was great, because it was a very fresh experience.


There's genius in this film in so many ways. Charlie Kaufman's script is mind-blowing. How did he write this? When you add films like 'Adaptation' and 'Being John Malkovich' to the list, it's incredible. Kaufman seems to have access to his whole brain -- he knows how to utilise it. 'Eternal Sunshine..' is so powerful for exactly that reason -- we feel like we're going through a journey in our own brains.


You have to credit the director, Michel Gondry, and the director of photography Ellen Kuras. In a remarkably accurate way they have brought to life the inner workings of the mind --- the dreams, the nightmares, the memories. It's so haunting,
so real.

And then there's Kate and Carrey. What can you say about them? I don't know if I realised the first time I saw this movie -- but Jim Carrey's performance is perfect. But not perfect in any way you could teach. I don't think you could extract it and bottle it and learn from it. You just have to watch him and be in awe of it -- because he's just amazing. From the first moment, you're sold. Kate Winslet is probably just as good, but you can't help but be a little conscious of the fact it's Kate Winslet with weird coloured hair in the opening scenes. It takes a while to adjust.


The thing about movie stars is that it's very hard to detach from who they really are when you see them on screen. Or more accurately, it's hard to detach from what we project onto them, how we view them. But in the opening scenes, Carrey and Winslet are so REAL. They're like me and you. Just a man and a woman. They're vulnerable, awkward, and you just
feel it. These are two performances that really earned their salaries. This is why we love the cinema and movie stars. Sometimes they really can reach these levels.


And then there's the editing, by Valdís Óskarsdóttir. It's seamless. The thing that's so difficult about mind-fuck films like this one, is that it's so easy to get lost -- to be jolted into confusion. In 'Eternal Sunshine..', the moments where we do get confused are intentional, and get resolved later on. There's an art to what Óskarsdóttir achieved. There are times in the second half of the movie when we're being taken on a journey through Joel's (Carrey) subconscious mind -- as he dashes in and out of numerous memories, yet at the same times we cut back into the Clementine/Patrick storyline (Winslet/Wood), and the Dr. Mierzwiak/Mary storyline (Wilkinson/Dunst) and it's miraculous that it all makes sense. That's the power of great editing. If you compare it to films like 'Donnie Darko' and 'Vanilla Sky', I think there's a level of brilliance to this film that those ones lack. And it comes down to how all the elements mentioned in this article were handled. 


The film had a strange effect on me tonight. It got me thinking about my memories. How many of them are rigid and built to last? Maybe not that many. In fact, some stories I could recount perfectly two years ago, now somehow sink into insignificance. It's weird what time does. The erasing of former lovers is something that, weirdly, kind of happens in real life too. The pain goes away, the specifics evaporate. We get left with the feelings. Sometimes they're beautiful and poignant, other times they leave us bitter and resentful. So what to do with all of these memories? 


I know precisely what I want to do with them: I want to create a lot more of them. 

Care to share?

7 comments:

  1. This is actually my favourite film of all time - you can totally say that about a modern film :p

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  2. What a great write up. I tried doing a post on this years ago and it is no wheres near as poignant as you put it, Kid. You nailed it. As you usually do. Awesome. Thank you.

    And thank you for your comment last week, it hit me and kept me going. Thank you.

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  3. This is one of my favorite movies as well and I loved your love song for it.
    I haven't watched it for a long time but I might very well re-watch it soon, inspired by this post. But even if I don't watch it, I think about it every now and then.
    I have a terrible memory and I forget stuff that has happened to me way quicker than I'd like to. It's as if someone is erasing it for me without me asking for it.
    Sometimes I think about if I could safe some memories the way he tries to.
    I think my blogging partly has to do with this. It's my desparate attempt to hold on to movies I'd otherwise forget about.

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  4. So much enthusiasm, wow! (couldn’t resist). Wicked people say it disappears with time usually, obviously not necessary. I liked the memories part, they are hard to deal with; but erasing the memory don’t enriches, only soothes, apparently.

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  5. I love this movie. Actually it's a weird love. I love it, but then kind of resent it at the same time because it leaves me feeling a little uneasy which is probably what it means to do.

    Agree with what you about that last sequence with Carrey and Winslet running through his memories - that scene is so unnerving! All of me was coiled and tensed up through a lot of that movie.

    Memories are scary. Especially in how easily they disappear. But for me, I have these distorted memories - as in when I talk about them with ppl I find out that's not how that even happened - I've added or erased a detail and made it different. It's a little worrying.

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  6. There have definitely been times in my life where I would have gladly erased the bad memories I had of certain incidents and relationships but it's good that we can't it's moments like that which can help us grow, develop and empathise.

    This is one of my favourite films as well and I thought you described why it is such a powerful film beautifully here. I really enjoyed your final couple of paragraphs in particular.

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  7. Great movie. Great review. Definitely in the top 5 for me. Sorry if this seems like a lame comment but I don't want to ramble on.

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