Brief thoughts on Eternal Sunshine

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Director: Michel Gondry

Writer:  Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman writes movies with uniquely bizarre premises and utterly human themes.  In Being John Malkovich, he deals with identity, aspirations, and the hard reality of existence.  Adaptation is about the creative struggle and the need to adapt and evolve with the circumstances.  In Synecdoche, New York he presents us with a stylized look at our perception of life and other people.  In Eternal Sunshine he searches through the meaning of love and memory.  All of these descriptions are trite, insufficient, and probably inaccurate.  They are, however, what I recall learning from and seeing in the films.

I just re-viewed Eternal Sunshine.  I think it is his best script, and one of the best scripts of the 00’s.  In all his films, Kaufman is able to create a bizarre world filled with eccentric characters that are surprisingly like each of us.  I have not had to deal with the rise and fall of a relationship like Joel and Clementine do in the movie.  I have had to deal with the peaks and valleys of ones.  I can most certainly understand the place memory holds in our value system.

I recently saw a lecture on the meaning of happiness.  The speaker noted that there are two main types of happiness:  that which comes from experiencing and that which comes from remembering.  This movie very effectively illustrates that there is a disconnect between the two.  The lecturer noted that people who moved from Ohio to California would say that they are happier.  They aren’t.  They remember the hard winters and are comparing their present experience to their memories.  We tend to filter our memories to extremes, either very good or very bad.  We tend to not place emphasis on the middle.

One of the many problems with Joel and Clementine in the movie is that they place more emphasis on present experience rather than memory.  In the end, Joel comes to realize the importance of memory, and its supremacy to the present.  Even though he knows his relationship with Clementine will probably fail, he is will to move ahead, if only for the pleasant memories of pleasant times.

The themes of this movie are similar to the themes of Dark City, another very good movie.  The two might make an interesting double-feature, even though the forms of the movies are very different.

Rating:  9/10

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