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Dramas > Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie Marquette (katiesonlinelibrary) Wrote a review on this movie a while back - be forewarned it does contain spoilers! Seriously a fantastic film.
Joel Barish, played by actor Jim Carrey, lies sleepily in his bed, the camera focusing closely on his bleary eyed gaze. Soft, sad music plays gently in the background as we watch Barish go through what we can only assume is a regular routine. As he waits at the train station, Carrey's voice vocalizes our hero's inner thoughts in a depressingly dull tone. "Sand's overrated," he muses, half heartedly digging on a cold beach in Montauk. This is our introduction to Joel. He is ordinary, shy, and far from exceptional. As Joel rides home, the camera rocks back and forth with the motion of the train. Light hearted music plays in the background, and this is when an unknown woman with hard to ignore blue hair waves easily, and comes over to talk to a nervous Joel. She introduces herself as Clementine, but warns, "no jokes about my name."
Within the first ten minutes, viewers will realize that this is no ordinary film. The camera jerks back and forth, seasick with emotion, playing with angles, shadows, and the rocky personalities of its leads. Native frenchman Micheal Gondry collaborates for the second time with gifted writer Charlie Kaufman to come up with a story that has the aura of a dream. Eternal Sunshine was Gondry's second directorial attempt. He is known for his manipulation of light and experimental techniques. Kaufman, who is perhaps best known for his film Being John Malkovich, deftly writes the history of two lovers, torn apart by their own desire to control memory.
One of the most beautiful scenes in the movie occurs early on. Clementine takes Joel to the Charles river. The frozen river stands illuminated in the moonlight, the lights of cars on the highway floating like stars on the horizon. Clementine, played by Kate Winslet, immediately runs out onto the lake, while Joel hesitates at the edge. He finally follows her and they lie down in the middle of the lake, a large crack splintering the frozen water only feet away. There appears to be a spotlight on the two of them, lying close together, as we watch from above. The couple looks very small, their shadows like a dark outline, almost is if they're floating.
Twenty minutes into the movie, the credits start, the names dissolving against a rainy backdrop. Deadening music plays, the chorus repeating, "everybody's gotta run sometime." The rest of the movie takes the form of a flashback. Viewers can be easily confused, nobody's really sure if years have passed, or just months. Later, however, it becomes obvious that an element of confusion is necessary in a movie which requires one to constantly question the nature of reality, and of memory iteself. We learn that Clementine and Joel have been in a relationship that has been abruptly ended. In an effort to do away with troubling memories, Clementine has gone to Lacuna, a hospital which can literally erase a person from memory. "She erased you almost on a lark," a friend told a devestated Joel.
In an effort to seek revenge, Joel goes to the same clinic to have Clementine erased from his own memory. The remainder of the film vacilates between memory and the present as we are walked through Joel and Clementine's tumultuous relationship. The initial memories are ones filled with bitter resentment and hostility and fade easily away, but soon happier memories surface and it is then that Joel realizes that he doesn't want Clementine erased afterall. Like in some sort of nightmare, Joel is aware of the procedure and yells out in desperation to make it stop, but of course, nobody hears. The voices of the technicians, played by Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood, permeate Joel's subconcious, thundering and echoing against the walls of his mind.
Meanwhile, outside of Joel's memories, a worker at Lacuna, Mary, played by Kirsten Dunst, reveals her crush on the head doctor, and creator of the procedure. Tom Wilkinson plays Dr. Howard, the calm voice of reason behind an otherwise absurd operation. While Joel hurriedly attempts to save his shattered memories of Clementine, Mary learns that she too has had her memories erased. Howard, shame faced, admits that they have already had a relationship and Mary had chosen to erase it from memory. This subplot becomes imperative later on.
What holds an entirely complex plot together is the brilliant performance of its two leads, Carrey and Winslet. Skeptics who have written off Carrey as an actor with little substance, will be astounded at his performance. Eternal Sunshine is so different from former roles that Carrey has played, including those in such classic comedies as Dumb and Dumber and The Cable Guy. In this film, he is allowed to shine not as a comedian, but as a serious actor. Winslet's former roles have often been period roles. She famously played Rose in Titanic and Marrianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, but as Clementine she proves that she does not have to be confined to a corset in order to act well. In her competant hands, Clementine becomes very much alive.
In an especially tender memory, Joel and Clementine sit on the steps of an old beach house. Winslet, her hair flaming red, looks at him, wounded sadness in her eyes, saying, "This is it Joel. It'll be gone soon." She says it so bluntly, with such acute honesty that audiences will be astounded. Carrey looks back at her, his face drawn in sad acceptance, the wind blowing his hair, "I know." And when Winslet vacantly asks, "What do we do?" Carrey's eyes grow misty and far away, "Enjoy it," he says, quietly. Soon, the scene dissolves into images of their dancing silouettes on the desserted beach.
What makes the writing so powerful is the very idea which compels the film. Can we control memory? And more than that, is any memory terrible enough to want to erase it? Is love, even love lost, too precious to forget? Kaufman asserts that people exist almost as seperate entities within in our minds. Clementine was able to move freely, talk to Joel, even make suggestions to him in his subconcious. And when the rushing water is slowly destroying Joel's final memory, his voice breaking as he regrets all the things he should have done, the scene grows blurry and only Clementine's whispering voice permeates the darkness - "Meet me in Montauk," audiences will suddenly understand that love defies memory.
The movie ends in bookending fashion. Once again, the camera focuses on Joel's sleepy gaze, on the light streaming through the window. It is then we realize that the first twenty minutes of the movie really occured after all the following events. Mary, in outrage, has sent out tapes revealing what has happened to all those people who participated in the procedure. Joel and Clementine sit dumbly in the car, astounded at the very idea. Eventually, however they both realize what has happened and begin to accept it. Kaufman leaves us with the idea that two people, if they are truly meant to be together, will be together. No memory, or lack thereof can stop their inevitable union.
This is a truly exceptional film. Unlike any other romance, it thrives on its uniqueness. With an all star cast, and the brilliant vision of its writer and director, Eternal Sunshine is not easily forgotten.

As the closing credits play, audiences will remember Mary quoting Alexander Pope:

"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!"

message 2: by Katy-Del (new)

Katy-Del I loved that movie. Charlie Kaufman makes the most wonrderous melancholy movies.

message 3: by Phillip (last edited Jul 24, 2009 01:28AM) (new)

Phillip | 10781 comments dang katie, thanks for the words on this. i'm also a fan of this one. it's really the only film where i appreciate jim carrey. and when you find that the main doctor used the procedure on kristen dunst's character, the slime level really gets under your skin. the fight to keep our memories from eroding is such a primal desire. the film presents it in a way that is so visceral, because you believe carrey loves her deeply and is desperate to keep that love alive. it's our survival instinct that is so thoroughly engaged by the picture, and that is its power and beauty.

message 4: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 135 comments I thought it was very very sad

message 5: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10781 comments indeed. it's one to cry on. if you've ever felt loss, this will bring it right on home.

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