Friday, 18 January 2013

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (5 Stars)

Time flies. Is it really nine years since I saw this film in the cinema? It hit me so hard that I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks. Usually I wait a year for DVD prices to drop, but this is a film I bought immediately when it was released. I needed to see it again as soon as possible. This is still one of my all-time favorite films, probably second after "Lost Highway". This was also the film that made me a big fan of Charlie Kaufman, the writer of the screenplay. His stories are astounding. Other films of his in a similar vein are "Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation" and "Synecdoche, New York".

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) have been together for two years. They are complete opposites, which is what drew them together, but it's also the reason for their frequent arguments. Joel is quiet and withdrawn. He likes to spend his evenings at home reading. Clementine is loud and outgoing. She talks incessantly and likes to get drunk. After a particularly nasty argument Clementine goes to a doctor in New York who is offering a new procedure: memories can be selectively removed from the mind. She decides to have all memories of Joel erased so she can start a new life. When Joel finds out about this he decides to do the same and have Clementine erased from his memories. Half way through the procedure he changes his mind and fights to regain his memories.

Of course, there are other twists to the story, as we would expect from any story written by Charlie Kaufman. In particular, one of the doctor's assistants, Patrick (Elijah Wood), falls in love with Clementine when he sees her lying asleep, so he steals confidential information about Joel to act like Joel and present himself as her new lover.

The power of this film is in the way it's presented. Different layers of reality are shown at the same time. We see Joel asleep on his bed, drugged for the procedure. At the same time we see his memories of the previous two years, presented in reverse order, since that is the order in which they will be deleted. Then we see his struggles to create new memories as his virtual world decays around him.

Click here to view the very good trailer. I wish all film trailers had this quality. Not too long, and informative without giving away spoilers. I liked the film promotion at the time of its release. Instead of the big billboards we usually see for new films there were hundreds of small posters all over town, only about three foot high. This made the film stand out from all the other new releases. Less is more. On the other hand, I've found film posters online calling the film a comedy. Idiots! There is nothing at all funny about this film. It's another example of how proficient Jim Carrey can be as a serious actor.

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