Tuesday, October 18, 2011
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
(March 2004, U.S.)
It's amazing what a cinematic sucker I am for something really fresh and original on screen. Nothing seduces me more than being taken in a story direction I've never been on before. That's probably why I love David Lynch so much. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd swear that ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, a thought-provoking story of romantic fantasy that uses elements of science fiction, psychological thriller, and nonlinear narration to explore the nature of memory and romantic love, is likely to be pure "Lynchian" technique. Alas, though, the film is scripted by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry.
The idea that one could possibly undergo a procedure where a person or event could literally be erased from one's mind and memory is absolutely mind-boggling because I can personally attest to the fact that I've fantasized about that idea myself (remember that girl I told you about in my post for DEAD POET'S SOCIETY?). Honestly, haven't you?? When emotionally withdrawn Joel Barish (played by Jim Carrey) and unhinged free spirit Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet) strike up a relationship on a Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk, New York, they are inexplicably drawn to each other, despite their radically different personalities. What they don't realize is that they are actually both former lovers whose long relationship ended badly and that they BOTH decided to utilize the services of Lacuna, Inc. to each erase the other person from their own memory. Following this, so far?
For much of the film, we experience the flashback of Joel's erasing procedure through his own mind. As his memories are literally deleted, Joel finds himself revisiting them in reverse. Upon seeing happier times of his relationship with Clementine from earlier in their relationship, he struggles to preserve at least some memory of her and his love for her. Despite his efforts, the memories are slowly erased, with the last memory of Clementine telling him, "Meet me in Montauk". It works, because as stated above, they do meet again in Montauk (I've never seen the beach look so beautiful in the dead of winter before!) only to relive each other all over again despite each other's erasure. So what does this all mean? That we're destined to be with that one particular person whether we like it or not? I suppose that's a beautiful proposal, depending on who the person is.
In an interesting plot twist, Joel and Clementine happen to come upon their Lacuna records shortly after RE-encountering each other on the train. They react with shock and bewilderment, given that they have no clear memory of having known each other, let alone having had a relationship and having had their memories erased. Joel is convinced that they can start over, regardless and their relationship commences again, this time each of them knowing that the other person is very far from perfect. Certainly puts a new twist on the prospects of dating, doesn't it?
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND is not only one of the most original stories I've ever seen on film, but also one of the ten best films of the last decade, in my opinion.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Clementine Kruczynski: "Meet me in Montauk."