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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

on the same night as the free jet, i went and saw eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, because, frankly, i had heard many good things.

i had my reservations about this film. despite the fact that many people call it a charlie kaufman film, it's actually a michel gondry film, and he made human nature, which wasn't very good. kaufman, by the way, wrote the script for that film, too. now, the film didn't suck in a big way, but at the end, you certainly couldn't argue that it was good. it wasn't.

but you know, many people said eternal sunshine of the spotless mind was fantastic. people called it ground breaking and amazing and (in a comment that has stuck in my head) raw. the problem, of course, with such comments, is that a film can't possibly live up to these expectations: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind isn't groundbreaking, isn't mind numbing, and didn't leave me raw. but: i did enjoy it quite a lot, and i do think it's a fine film.

it deals with a couple, played exceptionally well by jim carrey and kate winslet, who decided to have each other wiped from their memory by a mind wiping procedure. perhaps the finest line is uttered by tom wilkinson in relation to this concept, when joel (carrey) asks if there will be any damage, and he replies, 'well, the procedure is essentially about damaging your brain.'

from here, the film follows a tour through joel's mind, tracking the emotional state of someone after a breakup. painful memories first, nice ones later, then that little bit of something you hold onto at the end, which, as seen in the first fifteen minutes of the film, convinces both joel and clementine (winslet) to go to a cold beach, where they will meet again. this, of course, introduces the statement of the film: that we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes if we simply toss away everything we learnt from our previous relationship.

at least, that's what i view the statement of the film is. i could also go with: there's someone for everyone, and that some people are just meant to be together.

but, in the end, i lean towards the first statement, since that seems to me to be the point of the film. most of the film is dedicated to joel and clementine's tour through joel's memories, looking for a place to hide, digging into his mind, into their arguments, and laying down the bones of what went wrong in the two of them. to go with the second statement, you have to play up elijah wood's character and his obsession with clementine more than the film does. but it's there, since he does steal joel's memories and possessions to move in on clementine as a fake joel, intent on being him for all intents and purposes, except, of course, that clementine doesn't take to it. and, with that, kirsten dunst's character arc really supports the first statement within the film.

still, i enjoyed myself, and the film, though there are two things, in the end, that let the film down (just a little) for me:

the first is that the whole crawling through someone's mind and digging into their psyche is not a new idea. we were introduced to that in being john malkovich, and in a few places, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind does echo that earlier kaufman scripted film. but still, the end result is something much different, and it isn't, in the end, a problem.

the end of the film, however, was a bit disappointing. i can't tell what exactly it is that disappointed me, except that it felt like a fizzle, like everyone had got to the end of the film, and was standing in a narrow hallway, looking at each other, and said, 'well, what do we do now?'

'end it?'

'okay.'

Comments

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i_ate_my_crusts
May. 10th, 2004 11:46 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed the film - not too sweet, not too brutal, not too hollywood, not too shallow - but I was disappointed that when I reached the end, I had no questions. I wanted to leave the cinema thinking for hours, and all it made me do was smile a small wistful smile, take my partners hand and wonder about whether I'd rather have Vietnamese or Thai for dinner.

Compare that to, say, Memento, about which I still have moments of pondering.

Thanks for your thoughts - they struck a chord.
benpeek
May. 12th, 2004 12:48 am (UTC)
you're welcome.

i didn't think at the end of memento. i know people do, but i don't see the point. it's pretty obvious, though i liked it as a film. the gimmick worked nicely.
lpassociation
May. 11th, 2004 05:13 am (UTC)
I found you on UNSW, community, (a friend of mine has LJ, from there).
Just interested in gaining a few LJ friends to share random thoughts etc.
benpeek
May. 12th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC)
sure, man. this is a public blog thing, often involved in pimping my work and such, though.
scarlet_arts
May. 12th, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC)
'scuse me for making myself at home in your LJ, but I enjoyed this post :)

You mentioned a couple of potential statements that the movie may have been addressing, but I think there's a third concept to consider when deciding what that statement is. I was left with the impression that the memory-erasing technology was imperfect, and created faults that both made them mad and brought them together again after the procedure.

There were obvious problems during the course of Joel's procedure (primarily self-imposed as he "ran" from the erasure), but the fact that Clementine also experienced "dejavu" in her interactions with Patrick suggests that the method was an imperfect one.

If that's the case, the statement of the movie may be that the relationships we enter into are never compartmentalized, but become intertwined with our existing understanding of the world. Perhaps it's suggesting that we also re-write our memories to better accommodate these relationships... making the memories of a single person or relationship impossible to isolate.

Then again, it could be the crack cocaine talking.


Also, ask ceret about his reaction to the film's ending. He'd read the screenplay before seeing the movie, and was very surprised to find that the final product didn't match the ending in the script. The alternative ending brings entirely new themes into the equation... and I'm not sure which concept I like better.

Hi, I'm Liz :P
benpeek
May. 12th, 2004 10:38 pm (UTC)
feel free to make yourself at home. it's that kind of livejournal :)

and yeah, i see your point about the third way of reading it. i guess it didn't occur to me, partly, because i saw that the technology being imperfect was more of a plot device than the concern of an actual theme. but, however, i'm more than pleased to be wrong about that, as your point is quite a nice one.

and yes, i will have to ask ceret about the film ending. now, to find him and get him over here so he can share his wisdom...
scarlet_arts
May. 12th, 2004 10:48 pm (UTC)
To be perfectly honest, my interpretation has probably evolved from frustration.

I found the "science" aspect of the plot inconsistent and unconvincing... and have probably justified its place in the movie this way. I don't think there's any right or wrong way to interpret this movie (or any movie - with the possible exception of Clueless) but I think there's room to expand on the way that dejavu was used throughout the movie.

From memory, ceret mentioned that the screenplay ended the same way as the book. It has Joel and Clementine breaking up and erasing each other every couple of years until they're old.
benpeek
May. 12th, 2004 11:52 pm (UTC)
the book is a philip k dick thing, isn't it?

i actually had heard that, vaguely, somewhere, in a review. i think it would've made the film stronger to have it there. as for the science being unconvincing... well, it was. but since i just looked at it as a plot device, and i never have a problem with set/plot devices like that. possibly because i've spent too much of my time reading speculative fiction, though you'd think the opposite would have happened, don't you?

there was room to expand a lot on the film. clementine, for example, was never really shown to the viewer, and yet she was as equally important to the film as joel, so i would've liked more of her.
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