Today we finally got to see Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, one of the films that we had intended to go an see at the cinema, but never quite made it! Beth was at home, suffering with a stomach upset, so I picked up the movie whilst I was shopping and we watched it this afternoon.
Anyway, the film is the latest by Charlie Kaufman, who appeared with the decidedly strange Being John Malkovich in 2000, where a portal into John Malkovich’s mind was discovered on floor seven-and-a-half of a Manhattan office block, and last years Adaptation, a film that was supposed to be an adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief, but was in fact a film about a ficticious Charlie Kaufman, and his equally ficticious twin brother, as he struggled to make a movie from the book.
Eternal Sunshine is in some ways more conventional, but is in others just as strange. It begins with Joel Barish waking up on Valentines Day, but stood on the station, waiting for his train to work, he suddenly decides to catch a train in the other direction. He ends up on a deserted beach, and taking out his notebook finds a large number of pages have been torn out, and the last entry is two years before. He then spots a girl walking on the beach, and ultimately finds himself on the train back with her, and finds that she is going to the same station. They find that they are familiar to each other, but can’t work out why. They decide to go out on a date the next night, and then dropping her off at her flat, a stranger comes up to Joel and asks him what he is doing there. It then starts to get wierd, as it jumps into flashback, telling the story of what happened in the days running up to valentines, as following the end of a relationship, Joel discovers that his ex has had all memory of him wiped from her mind, and he decides to do the same. However during the process of having his memory wiped, as he goes backwards through the relationship he realises that he doesn’t want to loose the memories. Much of the film goes on inside his head as he attempts to hide memories to escape the wiping process.
The film is in many ways a piece of traditional Sci-Fi, in that although it has fantastical elements, they are there to underpin a simple, and relevant, character driven story – in this case making subtle but profound observations about the power of memory and the nature of relationships
It is a much more approachable film than Kaufmans two previous films, where in some ways things got really too wierd, especially true of Adaptation. Here there is wierdness in the sequences within Joels mind, but the real world is much more normal.
SFX Magazine describes the film as one of the best sci-fi films of the year, an opinion with which I definitely agree. In an age where many sci-fi films are primarily effects driven spectaculars, lacking any real depth or message, it is great to have a sci-fi film where the sci-fi takes a backseat, providing a good story, rather than the story taking a backseat to the effects! Highly recommended.
Incidentally, the title comes from a poem by Alexander Pope:
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.
‘Eloisa to Abelard’, Alexander Pope