Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Fig 1 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Poster
Directed by Michel Gondry (and co-written with Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth) comes Eternal Sunshine, the story of two individuals who undergo a procedure that erases the other from their memory. In the beginning we meet Joel (Jim Carrey), a solitary and anxious man whom, whilst writing in his journal, admits to "falling in love with any woman who gives him the slightest bit of attention". He decides to skip work and take the train to Montauk on a whim and on his journey home meets Clementine (Kate Winslet). Clementine is a confident, bright-haired young woman whom Joel feels instantly taken with, despite their entirely opposing personalities. At this point we witness the blossom of their burgeoning relationship, only for the film to jump forward in time to the grizzly aftermath. After finding out that Clementine had all memories of him professionally erased, Joel tracks down said company and demands to have the procedure done himself. The rest of the film occurs inside of Joel's mind, as we backtrack from the downfall of his relationship to the sweetness of it's initial stages. But as he lucidly journeys into the depths of his own memories, Joel decides he wants to call off the procedure - trapped within his own brain, can he wake up before Clementine is gone forever?

The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2005 and achieved a Best Actress nomination for Kate Winslet as Clementine.

Eternal Sunshine has been my all-time favourite film for almost ten years now and having watched it for the umpteenth time, I can confidently say it's unlike any other. It's a beautifully melancholic anti-love story about the decay of affection, that also hints at the possibility of 'soul-mates' and ultimately declares that "it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all". It boasts fascinating character studies, an exploration of cerebral visuals and is a celebration of our imperfections - I truly cannot praise it highly enough.

Fig 2 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Clementine and Joel
The element of a film that I am usually last to speak about is it's use of music, which here is paramount to establishing the emotional tone of each scene as the film flits between good and bad memories. The film's composer, Jon Brion, uses a variety of instruments to achieve this soundscape, which often blends the melody of various scores throughout the film to demonstrate the process of change that the characters have experienced. It also highlights the sense of dreamlike unease and nostalgia that accompanies the visual landscape of our sleep. This is particularly effective in a scene in which Joel decides to hide Clementine in a buried memory and recalls a moment from his childhood in which the two begin to sing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'. A sudden downpour of rain fills their apartment and objects, such as Joel's childhood bike, begin appearing from the memory. A song entitled 'Row' can be heard over the top of this scene, which is perhaps my favourite instrumental piece of music. Something about this short, sweet piano piece perfectly encapsulates the innocence of childhood and manages to make a fleeting moment in the film so memorable.

With a star-studded cast including the likes of Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson, even the minor characters of the film are given a chance to shine as their intertwining narratives unfold. However, the central performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are truly the crowning jewels of Eternal Sunshine, with particular emphasis on Carrey's uncharacteristically dramatic choice in taking on the role of Joel Barish. Void of all eccentricity that Carrey had become known for in roles such as Ace Ventura (1994) and Liar Liar (1997), his interpretation of Joel is surely the most gutsy example of a comedic actor breaking typecast to deliver an unrecognisable performance of gravitas and subtlety. Winslet similarly diverts from the norm taking on Clementine Kruczynski, the impulsive and vivacious antithesis to her leading love interest. Their ultimately flawed relationship proves entirely believable as we watch them eat, play and argue together over the course of a reversed span of time. Along with the additional cast, there is no black and white to the choices these characters make, allowing the audience to decide exactly what to take away from the film.

Overall, I still find myself coming back to Eternal Sunshine as one of (if not the) greatest films of all-time. It's certainly not for everyone but with a stellar cast, surrealist premise and impeccable soundtrack, I cannot fault it and would urge anyone with an open mind and a broken heart to let the film shake up your senses on a journey into the unconscious.


Fig. 1 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Poster (2004) From: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (1984) - Directed by: Michel Gondry

Fig. 2 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Screenshot (2004) From: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (1984) - Directed by: Michel Gondry

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