Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Its a Tuesday night; its a ulu movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; its into its second week of run; its one whole hour before the movie started that I went to buy the tickets, you would think Ive no problem getting decent seats for the show, dont you? Then you are so very wrong! I got front row seats! Like, wow... So, Singaporeans do like this sort of films, so overflowing with emotions.

Okay, to give credit to the show, it did garner excellent reviews. A certain critic with i-weekly said that that was the best film she had watched this year. The film was written by this fantastic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who also wrote other excellent films like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. Charlie Kaufman’s pieces characteristically feature characters with complex emotions and Eternal Sunshine was no exception.

But what struck me most of the film was that Jim Carrey is really an actor. Id always thought that he was merely a comedienne and nothing more, although I do admit that he is somewhat cute when he grins, in Eternal Sunshine, Jim Carrey was Joel. After watching Eternal Sunshine, I dont think I can ever see Jim Carrey as himself again. He just so convincingly transformed himself into Joel!

I think Im in love with Jim Carrey. Or maybe Im in love with Jim Carrey’s vivid portrayal of Joel. Or maybe, Im just in love with the magic that comes out of Charlie Kaufman. Just like I fell in love with Nicholas Cage after Adaptation.

I like men over-brimming with emotions yet too shy to show them out directly, and these are the main similarities of Charlie Kaufman’s male protagonists. From past television shows and movies from America to the Far East, this category of men are most likely to stay loyal to the One he loves and would put in their whole heart into a relationship. A current example would be that Cao Pi (Zihuan) from that 9pm channel U show.

Back to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, cant go on digressing about men if I want to properly introduce this film, can I? Basic plot of the story, Joel (Jim Carrey) meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they clicked at their first meeting, then the story goes back to the day before when Joel returns home to execute a memory erasing of Clementine, then probes back to Joel finding out that Clementine had erased Joel from her memory. From there, the story goes backwards in time and we learn of Joel and Clementine breaking up, them quarrelling, them falling deeply in love, them first meeting each other through the process of Joel erasing his memory.

I wonder where on earth Charlie Kaufman got the idea of such an interesting narration of events from end to beginning. He did it with such good effect that my feelings for the characters linger on even after the show end.

An example, Joel’s meeting with Clementine in the opening of the show. Clementine asked Joel if she knew him. “No, I dont think so” was his reply. Then she introduced herself as Clementine and asked him not to make fun of her name. He gave her a blank stare and asked why anyone would make fun of her name. “(Its that song) Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine” she sang. “I never heard of it” was his reply.

This scene didnt evoke any emotion from me when I watched it, but after watching another scene, memories from this scene pricked my heart as it ached for both characters.

That was the scene when Joel first met Clementine. Their real first meeting. She introduced herself as Clementine and asked him not to make fun of her name. Joel went like, “(Its that song) Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine”. She laughed. That probably made him fell in love with her. I dont know.

In Eternal Sunshine, people have their memories erased so that they can carry on with life and not be burdened by past sad memories.

When I wanted to forget someone by pushing him out of my mind, I found that the harder I try to get him out of my mind the more stubbornly he stayed there, then I tried to forget him by coming to terms with it and it worked, Im a lot happier now.

As Joel tried to erase Clementine out of his head, he found himself wanting more and more to keep memories of her alive that forced the procedure to get more complicated. But the ending of the film echoes my personal experience to a certain degree, they are a lot happier after they finally come to terms with each other.

Memory erasing, is it ethical?

In a scene from Fruitsbasket, a Japanese manga with an anime version, two characters Hatori and Kasa had such a turbulent relationship that Kasa was on the verge of breaking down. Hatori erased her memory of him so that she could carry on with life happily. She did just that after her memory was erased, but Hatori kept his memory of her intact along with all the pain. Ayame, Hatori’s best friend once remarked to him, “I want to see you hundreds of time happier than Kasa.”

In another scene from the same source, Momiji’s mother, for similar reasons had him erased from her memory and continued her life seemingly normal, but Momiji had to endure the stigma of his mother treating him like an almost stranger.

Personally, I thought that it wasnt fair for Hatori and Momiji to suffer emotionally in silence when the latter’s mother and Kasa could carry on with life happily. I dont know why, but I just dont find it fair.

But in Joel and Clementine’s case, maybe it was better for them to start anew literally. Maybe it was due to Charlie Kaufman’s wonderful script that made me think so. I dont know.

Go watch the film and share with me your thoughts.

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