Friday, February 19, 2010

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

It's 2009. If you still not yet seen 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, drop everything and journey to your local video store to rent this film. (In fact, if you've not yet seen this film, there is probably something wrong with you, dear readers.). Melancholy, wistful, and slightly experimental, the film traces the destruction of the relationship of Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (the ever lovely Kate Winslet, who could never be erased). After their love slowly slides into complacency and boredom, Clementine has her memories of the relationship erased. (If only such technology were commercially available in the real world.). Upon learning this, Barish does the same, and the film chronicles his subconscious and regretful struggle with this process. It's really quite an unusual spin on a familiar theme, and of course, that's thanks to Charlie Kaufman (the film's scribe and writer of Being John Malkovich and the wonderful Adaptation.). The film has a stellar sense of melancholy and self-doubt, two traits which are essential to any relationship film. The imagery is vibrant and clever. It's sequenced out of time, so we begin in the immediate present, immediately go back to the day before, and then trace the ups-and-downs of Joel and Clem's relationship backwards from its sour end to its hopeful beginning. Post hoc reconstruction is necessary, dear viewers. Runaway Bride this is not. Thank goodness. (Plus, you can't go wrong with Winslet with blue hair, can you?).

To boot, the film is filled with very competent actors, a rare thing for films of the 2000s. Carrey, of all people, is subtle as the lonely and insecure Barish, while Winslet captures the balance of impulsiveness and insecurity as Clementine. Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst round out the cast as the employees of Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), pioneer of the memory erasure process. These could easily have been stock characters played by Hollywood no-names, but the results are quite interesting to watch under the circumstances.

FYI: The title of the film comes from Alexander Pope's poem, Eloisa to Abelard, the appropriate stanza of which is:
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;
The poem is quoted in the film by Mary (Kirsten Dunst), a character who does come dangerously close to being mere eye candy until the final act of the film.

When I first saw it, I could say that it was the first film in a while during which (a) I have not been bored (b) I was actually interested in the subject matter and the characters (c) I was not ready for it to end. I am a bit disappointed that the film did not explore the moral and philosophical issues implicated by the erasure of one's memories of life and love, but that's just minor quibbling really. Really, what this film is about is the pain of loss and the wreckage that we become when we lose one to whom we have become attached. Go see it. (Oh, and for the record, I would never erase a relationship with Ms. Winslet from my mind. Not ever.).

No comments: