Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (2004)

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 resigned…-- Alexander Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard"

A solemn, worried man named Joel (Jim Carrey) takes a train for no reason and at a station encounters Clementine (Kate Winslet), who thinks they've met before. He doesn't think so. She persists. He goes home with her and they sleep together. In fact they have met before and were in love, but it ended badly and they both had the memory erased. 

The movie is a radical example of Maze Cinema, that style in which the story coils back upon itself, redefining everything and then throwing it up in the air and redefining it again. To reconstruct it in chronological order would be cheating, but I will cheat: At some point before the technical beginning of the movie, Joel and Clementine were in love, and their affair ended badly, and Clementine went to Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) at Lacuna Inc., to have Joel erased from her mind.

Discovering this, Joel in revenge applies to have his memories of her erased. But the funny thing about love is, it can survive the circumstances of its ending; we remember good times better than bad ones, and Joel decides in mid-process that maybe he would like to remember Clementine after all. He tries to squirrel away some of his memories in hidden corners of his mind, but the process is implacable.

Despite jumping through the deliberately disorienting hoops of its story, "Eternal Sunshine" has an emotional center, and that's what makes it work. Although Joel and Clementine ping-pong through various stages of romance and reality, what remains constant is the human need for love and companionship, and the human compulsion to keep seeking it, despite all odds. 

Kaufman, is the most gifted screenwriter of the 2000s, including  his screenplay for Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" (1999) , "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002) and  Kaufman's first film as a director, "Synecdoche, New York" (2008)
Visiting an old people's home, I walked down a corridor on the floor given over to advanced Alzheimer's parents. Some seemed anxious. Some were angry. Some simply sat there. Knowing nothing of what was happening in their minds, I wondered if the anxious and angry ones had some notion of who they were and that something was wrong. I was reminded of the passive ones while watching "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Wiped free of memory, they exist always in the moment, which they accept because it is everything.

Popular Posts