THIS YEAR IS FIFTEEN YEARS OLD the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". The successful tandem of director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman made the former a star of indie drama, and the latter won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. We asked people who remember the story of Joel and Clementine to tell them which is really more important - letting go or bringing back the past relationship.
To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, although I've watched the film at least three times. I was annoyed by the deliberate eccentricity of Clementine and the indecision of the hero of Jim Carrey. Perhaps if I knew at the age of thirteen (my age when the film was released) a little more about mental disorders or the experience of unsuccessful relationships, it would be easier to empathize with the main characters.
Yes, this is possibly one of the best roles for Jim Carrey. And yes, filming anything other than rom-com or a tearful drama about relationships in 2004, dashingly screwing science fiction elements into the plot, is powerful. But if you think about it, the relationship between Clementine and Joel was not very viable from the very beginning - today we would say about it "toxic". Drunken demonstrative driving? Hold on! Sorting out a relationship in the middle of a flea market walk? You are welcome! Devaluation of a partner? In this Clementine there is no equal, and Joel does not lag behind.
That is why the ending of the film confuses me. While Gondry says that it is possible to erase memory with the help of the Lacuna company, but true love still cannot be eradicated from the subcortex, I am more interested in another question: how not to confuse love and codependent relationships? In my opinion, this is the most terrible question of the film - it scares the more blurry faces of the secondary characters from Joel's memories and the constant jerks of a ragged plot.
For some reason I don’t remember my first viewing of the film. In memory, only individual pieces are preserved, torn from the consciousness of the heroes, which is not surprising, because almost every tape of Gondry is like a dream. But, as Clementine says at the end of the film, "the magic goes away" - so the scenes in which the characters look at each other with loving eyes are abruptly replaced by irritation towards each other. For the first half of the film, their relationship seems doomed, and you start thinking: "Maybe this is not love, but some kind of obsessive attraction?" But everything, in my opinion, is not so simple.
Previously, I disliked Clementine, it seemed that she was mocking the hero of Jim Carrey, wants to give him a test of strength with her mood swings and eccentric character. And only after reviewing the film recently, I noticed that this heroine also has her own fears, self-doubt. Perhaps because of this, at some point, she decides to take extreme measures and get rid of even the slightest reminder of a failed relationship forever. To be honest, we all want to do just that in such a situation, instead of admitting our mistakes, other people's shortcomings and possible difficulties. But, as practice and the further plot show, you cannot erase the past.
This is a film that, it would seem, says about such simple things, but we often forget about them: that sympathy cannot be calculated, so you always need to be yourself; that you cannot forcefully say to yourself “Don't feel!”, although you really want to; that you can stop thinking, but not forget. Even if I erased all the memories.
Frankly, at first I did not understand this film, I watched it only because of the color and atmosphere. I really liked it, and I still think that the color corrector and production designer are geniuses.I then studied at an art school and dyed my hair with henna - I dried it, of course, but it seemed to be part of the film. After the first viewing, I was sad, but not really bothering about what was happening there among the characters. Seemed what could be easier than love? A kiss and everything will be fine. Now I understand how poetic and flowing this film is - not only technically, but also for perception.
First, the idea. How many relationship films have been made? But it is this famously embodied concept that makes the film special. Second, the title - the right headlines help good films survive, like Killing a Sacred Deer or Great Beauty. The most important thing is the direction, how Gondry trusted the people he worked with. I read that he was never personally present on set and only guided the cameramen from a few blocks away to allow the actors to relax and improvise.
Is it right to return a relationship that has passed? To be honest, I would only return them all my life. A stupid position, I guess, but, damn, I'm Joel in its purest form.
When Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appeared on the screens, I was finishing eighth grade in the provinces, and everyone around was watching Scary Movie and waiting for the new Spider-Man. While Kaufman received an Oscar for the script of this film, I watched his film and almost immediately forgot. Jim Carrey plays the unapproachable slob Joel, Kate Winslet, on the contrary, the proactive Clementine. The main characters in the 2000s seemed to be people from another planet: you just watched how they live across the ocean in a completely different inaccessible world, turning a blind eye to the fantastic nature of the storyline.
In 2019, the relationship of the heroes can be imagined as a battle for the right to personal space - freeing memory, your world from unwanted, toxic elements. Does the person want to get rid of some memories? No question, the progress machine will help. The ethical dimension of such desires remained behind the scenes. Who else from loved ones will suffer from the mental "washing"? What's the difference? I just want to change.
Today, in a society of total communication and connection of everyone with everyone, the heroes of the film look like two infantile egoists. She erased the memories of him, in revenge he decided to forget her. Forgetting, like other processes in our life, is outsourced - I myself cannot, but the technique will finally help. Along the way, the heroes undergo travel therapy, reboot the relationship. Considering that we live in a world of constantly breaking communication, I understand Joel's choice. If something is important to you, and it does not work well, you can first figure it out and then break it. But infantile repair does not work - you need to learn to talk with loved ones in any situation.
It seems that this is a film about not trying to run away from yourself and look for simple solutions, even if it comes to something very painful. It's hard for me to remember exactly what my first viewing was, but it was definitely emotional. Although now it is not the scenes with Clementine that evoke a strong response, but pieces from Joel's childhood: these most distant corners of memory seem to be the most vulnerable and from this sincere place in the head of the protagonist. It seems that this is the "emotional core" that the staff of "Lacuna" are talking about.
When I remembered my first viewing, it seemed to me that before I perceived "Eternal Sunshine …" as a film about "eternal love" - some kind of objective, physical constant that can remain in memory even if people forget everything or live many lives. Now it seems to me that in Gondry's film there is much more "air" and uncertainty: what happened to the characters happened due to a combination of circumstances and the specifics of the characters. And how it will end, we also do not know.
Clementine is portrayed as an impulsive and extravagant person who is easy to reach for those who consider themselves more ordinary (which, by the way, is rather contradictory if you look at Joel - in some places he is portrayed as a much more creative person). At some point, the girl becomes an independent character in Joel's head: we hardly see a real person, but we see memories of her and fantasies about how she could act. It seems to me that this is an important, but not obvious, detail: Gondry shows that each of us lives in a slightly fictional world.
I do not think that the heroes have made the final decision and that they are "returning" something - rather, in the final it is difficult for them to compare themselves with the then, and their past seems to them a possible future. The risk they decide to take. When something is over, you feel it as a truly final stage. The beauty of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is precisely that this sensation is not there.
I remember that I was delighted with the plot, and thought that this is how “true love” should be - I was sixteen then. At the same time, the hero of Jim Carrey seemed strange: some kind of closed and melancholic guy. I also thought that in the end he would probably turn out to be a maniac and go to murder out of love. After watching, I fell into a kind of romantic coma. It seemed to me that this was an ideal relationship and I would never have such, because even a machine cannot defeat their love.
Now the relationship of the heroes seems quite ordinary: they met, liked each other, quarreled, realized that nothing would work out, and parted. But then the behavior of Jim Carrey's hero begins to raise questions. Chasing an ex-girlfriend who confessed (what if she lied to save herself?) That she does not remember him, attempts to make a new acquaintance, figuring out how this is possible. To put it bluntly, I would not want to be in Clementine's shoes.
I believe that it is wrong to return a relationship that has passed. After all, the partners have already received everything they could from each other, including negative emotions. Why enter the same river a second time, thinking that everything will be different? Trying to fix the situation in the hope that this is the same "true love"? Better to just forget and move on. Enjoy life and find wonderful partners who, for example, will not pursue you.
Photos: Focus Features