Saturday, 14 January 2012

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Over the weekend, I decided to watch a film to review as part of my personal and professional practice module. As I'd had 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' recommended to me, I decided this would be the film to go for. The film is something of a love story, starting Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Joel (Carrey) discovers that after a tough break-up, his Girlfriend Clementine (Winslet) has undergone a procedure to have him erased from her memory. In frustration, Joel decides he wants to have the same procedure performed on him and approaches Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) to enquire. In order for the procedure to work, Joel is told to go home to his appartment and take a pill to knock him out. Mierzwiak's team are then to enter the apartment and perform the procedure, resulting in joel waking up in his own bed as if nothing has happened, with no memory of his relationship with Clementine. As the procedures begins however, and Joel re-traces his memories of the relationship, he has second thoughts and begins to fight against the procedure.

The film begins with a relatively long opening sequence. We see Joel rise form his bed and head outside. When he gets to his car he notices a scratch across the left door. Assuming it has been created by the man parked next to him, he leaves a sarcastic thank you note in one of the windshield wipers. He then arrives at the train station to realising he is waiting at the wrong side of the platform, meaning he must run to barely catch his train. All of these small events are relevant, as we find out later in the movie. After arriving on a beach, Joel catches Clementine walking near the sea. He immediately falls for the stranger, and they end up talking on the train home. Things move quite swiftly between them, and they become very close. They share a moment gazing in to the stars on top of a frozen lake, and soon they are sleeping over in each others apartments. At the end of the opening sequence, Clementine heads in to her apartment to get her toothbrush as she plans to sleep over at Joel's. This is when Patrick (Elijah Wood) is introduced, approaching Joel who is sat outside waiting in his car. Patrick simply asks if there is a reason Joel is parked up. Confused, Joel explains he is unsure about what he is being asked, and then Patrick leaves the frame.


What is quite clever about the film is that although we believe we are seeing events unfold chronologically, we are actually seeing the film in a fragmented order. We are given signs of this throughout the movie. During the opening sequence, Clementine's hair is blue, her explanation being that she constantly changes her hair colour. When Joel enquires about the mind erasing procedure, he is asked to collect everything that reminds him of clementine. This creates a map of their relationship which the Doctor's machines can stick to and target the memories one at a time. When we see Joel living out these memories, Clementine's hair is a bright orange. At first I assumed this was because after their meeting in the opening sequence, Clementine likely changed her hair colour. What raised suspicion however, is that when Joel was rigged up and having his memories targeted, Patrick tried to woo Clementine. At this point in the film Clementine again has blue hair like at the start of the movie. Another clue that there was something peculiar happening with the plot, was that when Clementine came home drunk at a past time in her and Joel's relationship, she announced that she had damaged the car. When Joel angered her and then tried to pursue her in his car as she stormed out, the scratch he noticed in the opening sequence was visible. The final clue for me was when Joel relived his and Clementines first encounter. It did not match up with their meeting at the start of the movie. They met at a beach party, and Clementine tried to convince Joel to break in to a temporarily unoccupied beach house to share a romantic evening. Unfortunately, Joel  got nervous and simply walked away from the situation.

As events unfold, we discover that one of Dr Mierzwiak's assistants Mary (Kirsten Dunst) had history with the doctor in the past. We find out that her attraction towards the doctor caused her to enquire about the memory procedure herself. After Joel's procedure is complete, he wakes just as he did in the opening sequence. He then goes through all of the events seen at the start of movie, again bumping into clementine on the quiet beach. At this point we are now aware that the first moments of the movie were actually taking place after both the couple had had their memories erased. This realization hit Joel and Clementine when they uncovered a tape left by Mary. Mary explained she was making things right by sharing these tapes recorded with patients before the memory procedure. Both Joel and Clementines tapes held recordings of the flaws they saw in their relationship and each other. Eventually they decided to put their worries aside about the future of their new relationship and the film ended.

I found the film as a whole to be very enjoyable. There were some very powerful moments where Joel would try to escape the procedure by grabbing Clementine and jumping to different memories throughout his life. With these personal memories came also some comical classic Jim Carrey moments. At points Carrey would portray himself as a child, through throwing tantrums and being bullied by children which he dwarfed in comparison. Carrey is well known for his comical impressions, but in this movie we saw him also take on a serious role which was nice to see. It really showed diversity in his acting. I also found Clementines ever changing hair colour interesting. I was considering the idea that this was done intentionally to link with symbolism linked to colour. For example, when they met at the start of the movie, to me the blue hair seemed to reflect innocence. The couple had in essence just met and no turmoil was present in their relationship. When Joel reflected back to memories of their failing relationship, Clementines hair was an intense burning orange, showing pent up anger and recklessness. In contrast, when their 'actual' first meeting was shown Clementine had green hair, which to me represents purity. At this point they had genuinely never met or experienced turmoil, so their relationship was in no way tainted. I think that because I was focusing on this throughout the movie, I became wise to the twist before it was intended to be revealed. This meant the ending lost its full impact. I do believe however, that if I had not been intending to review the film causing me to watch it so intensely, I would not have realized the ending before I was supposed to. For this reason, I still think the plot twist was very effective in the sense that Clementines hair is used as a signifier to hint at the audience events are not unfolding chronologically.

Overall, I would give the film a 7 out of 10. The plot was quite clever, and there were some humorous moments along side all of the serious dramatic ones. The way in which Carrey fought against the procedure was reminiscent of a lucid (aware) dream. He knew that what he was seeing was his subconscious memories, yet he could not achieve full control. This in my opinion was a powerful concept, as most of us have achieved awareness while dreaming, and can relate to the strange sensation.

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