Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I never caught Eternal Sunshine in the theatre, as I had hoped to, but I was able to view this little treasure on DVD recently.

The movie is "little" by most means. It has a steadicam look about it. The special effects aren't CGI but mostly camera tricks, a low-budget approach to put a little whimsy into the movie. But director/writer Charlie Kaufman chose wisely to pick the best actors he could, and he wins big with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, plus all of the actors in lesser roles, particularly Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst.

We first meet Jim Carrey as Joel, a real nebbish of a character. He's shy and lonely, he sort of knows he wants a relationship with a woman, any woman, but can't make it happen. Kate Winslet's Clementine won't let that stand in her way, and forces herself past his force field to get to the real Joel. Quickly it becomes a full-blown love affair, and in many ways Clem becomes Joel's best side. She is his actualizer, and he reflects her goodness. For all of us who have been in relationships of opposites, this is one of those, and it works.

But for some reason Clem pulls out of the relationship. Everything goes sour. Clem and then Joel decide to erase each other from their memories to escape the pain and that freezing inability to go on with their lives.

Something remarkable, however, happens at this point. We get to enter Joel's mind and watch him during the procedure. We're able to watch what's happen inwardly and while observing, become Joel and experience his pain. He begins to find ways of eluding the memory erasures even though he ordered the procedure. He discovers what he had to begin with with Clem, what they shared, and finds himself returning to those memories so that he can experience them one more time before the final loss.

This is a love story. It's a heart-wrenching one, and this small film takes us along on this precious journey. The film weaves in and out of surreal dreamscape and real procedure, and it's no wonder we become a bit confused between the two.

I found myself wondering about the ramifications of erasing a memory, and Kaufman's illumination of the Kirsten Dunst character's story hints that we are doomed to repeat our same mistakes, even in love ("those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it"). This is the kind of movie that keeps you thinking many hours after it's over, wondering what could have been, what might have been had we been able to change something about our memories, what is it about relationships that tie us up, make us happy and make us miserable?

Jim Carrey is amazing as a man who lives inside himself. He's got that sardonic wit that usually puts himself in the center as victim. Yet we can read his face and understand what he's experiencing. And Kate Winslet is truly exceptional; this film is the best thing she's done in her career.

Admittedly, Eternal Sunshine is a bit hard to understand -- e.g., we're not sure when Clem underwent the procedure, where we are chronologically most of the time -- but that doesn't seem to matter. We're in this ride, holding on to our memories for dear life.

Thumb's up, way up, for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


At 7:06 PM, Blogger Mother of Two said...

This movie really shook me up...it reminded me of all the people that I did not want to forget! Very original movie! Surreal, thought provoking and also a beautiful love story. I agree Eternal Sunshine get THUMBS UP!


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