Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

13/06/2012 21:38

Review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), dir. Michel Gondry

Photo: outnow.ch

Imagine you found a note saying someone had had you erased from their memory and you were not to meet them anymore. Unlikely to happen? In a film scripted by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, it becomes an option thanks to which you can ease your worried mind from all the problems stemming from your relationship. Does this lead you to the assumption that what comes after the very first seconds would be just another clichéd romantic moving picture about a once-loving couple going through a painful break-up? Then what comes next is going to prove you wrong. What it turns out to be is a unique masterpiece that won't be wiped from your memory that easily.

 

The movie centres on the cautious and withdrawn Joel Barish, played by Jim Carrey, and the impulsive and outspoken Clementine Kruczynski, played by Kate Winslet, striking up a relationship after meeting on a Long Island beach. They are inexplicably drawn to each other, despite their being polar opposites. They feel almost as if they've known each other before. A short time later, or at least so it seems to us viewers until we manage to grasp the movie's timeline, we witness Joel weeping in his car after Clementine didn't recognize him when he came to see her at work. It turns out that she has had her memories of their relationship wiped out at a clinic with a very eloquent name, Lacuna (meaning a gap in one's memory in Latin), headed by Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Upon discovering what Clementine did, Joel, devastated and desperate, decides to undergo the procedure himself and have her erased from his brain, too. Once Joel has fallen asleep in his apartment, a small medical team can start their work.

 

Most of the story unfolds in the protagonist's head. While unconscious, he re-lives the memories of Clem as they're being erased, in reverse, starting with quarrels they used to have towards the end of their relationship all the way back to their happy beginnings. Joel realizes he doesn't want to forget her, and begins struggling to wake up. But is it possible to stop someone from deleting your memories while you're dreaming?

 

Joel is walking around in his head, while being at the same time aware of undergoing the procedure. Similarly, the movie's timeline jumps all over as it follows what is occurring in the protagonist's head. Yes, it might be a little confusing since the film requires an attentive approach to every detail in order to fully understand the plot. However, once you manage to do so, your effort pays off really well; the film keeps you interested all the way through and rewards you with an unforgettable experience.

 

Simultaneously with keeping track of all that's going on in Joel's head, we follow Clementine as she tries to adjust to her new life, and get to know the people who are working on Joel and around whom the side plot unfolds, including doctor Howard, technicians Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), and receptionist Mary (Kirsten Dunst).

 

It is Mary whose past is connected somehow to the procedure of erasure as well, and it is she as well who quotes the lines of a poem by Alexander Pope, including a line that gives the film its unusual title: "How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot ./ Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd." It is not the case in this film that forgetting can ease your lovesick mind. It is the exact opposite. The message conveyed here is that regardless of how much you try to erase love or painful memories from your head, all that will nevertheless find its way back; the attraction will remain and the memories will keep shaping you as a part of your nature. It is this emotional center that makes the film work.

 

As for the technical aspects, the film relies mostly on outstanding acting, inventive camerawork helping to build up the suspense, and gently integrated special effects visualising Joel's subconscious environment. Pleasant, though not particularly remarkable music fits well into the moving storyline. Hats off to the leads in this film whose acting is both natural and convincing. Winslet is perfect in her delivering a precise and plausible portrayal of an audacious yet vulnerable young woman. An awesome performance on Carrey's part as well; he puts aside his grin and truly shines as the timid Joel. We can feel every single emotion while looking at his face. The supporting cast adding effectively to the emotion on the screen is worth mentioning as well.

 

An Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay winner, the film was praised by critics as one of the best and most thought-stimulating moving pictures ever. If you're a fan of inventive and cleverly-made films which require some thinking, and if you're fond of great romances at the same time, you are likely to find Eternal Sunshine simply unforgettable.

Adriana Harnošová

This review was written for the course"Practical English" taught by Dominika Uhríková' in the 2011 winter term .

 

 

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