the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
eclectic reviews and opinions
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2004, D: Michael Gondry S: Charles Kaufman
I had the rare fortune to see this film without having seen any ads or previews, with no idea what it was about, or even who was in it. After Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the name Charles Kaufman on a screenplay is sufficient to get me into the theater. It might be a testament to the strength and unusual restraint of Jim Carrey's performance that I didn't even recognize him until the credits began to roll after the prologue sequence. (Then again, it might just be my obliviousness to mainstream media.)
Like Kaufman's previous films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores the gray areas between subjective and objective "reality," and between the conscious and the un- or sub-conscious. Its central trope, which concerns the manipulation of memory, explicitly calls to mind the work of Philip K. Dick. Dick has inspired several film adaptations, almost all of which missed the central point -- even the best of them, Blade Runner, is more notable for how convincing (and influential) its gritty and seamy future urban environment was than for how well it translated Dick's paranoiac vision and complex inner landscapes to film.
But Kaufman also possesses a remarkably sure touch for the convincing depiction of human dynamics. It's easy to see the forces that draw Joel Barish (Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) together despite their many differences; it's also easy to see the forces that push them apart, and how those forces could either be balanced or unbalanced. My friend Rog points out that even if you choose (as he did) to view the more surreal aspects of the plot as a metaphor for the exploration of a relationship, its emotional impact is undiminished. The fragments of Joel and Clementine's effectively suggest the whole from which they could have been drawn (and both actors do a really terrific job with the material).
It's scary, funny, and thought-provoking, thoroughly involving, and a strong (if early) contender for my top film of the year.
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