|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 28 September 2004|
The films focuses on Joel (Jim Carrey), who has decided to have the painful memories of his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) erased. Set to do this is the Lacuna Corporation, run by Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). After mapping Joel’s mind and memories, two of the technicians, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), enter Joel’s apartment while he is asleep, having knocked himself out with a strong sedative that Dr. Mierzwiak gave him. So begins the erasure of Clementine from Joel’s memory. During the procedure, the Lacuna secretary Mary (Kirsten Dunst) comes over and the three drink and get happy. Patrick ends up having a problem with his new girlfriend. After he leaves, Mary and Stan engage in some hanky-panky on the very bed that Joel is lying in, with a brain analyzer attached to his head.
As Joel travels through his own subconscious memories, he begins finding memories of himself and Clementine that he loves and does not want to give up. Unfortunately, all the memories of Clementine are due to be erased, so (inside his mind) Joel enlists her to help him hide her somewhere the technicians would not know to look for her. What results is an interesting journey that recounts the relationship between Joel and Clementine and examines the impact that memories, both good and bad, have on our pasts, presents and futures. Told in a way that only Kaufman and Gondry can, the film is a quirky, fun and powerful journey through ourselves.
This film is marked by its creativity in terms of story, effects work, acting, editing and music. It takes a certain gift to bring a Kaufman script to life, and while we know Spike Jonze can do it (as in “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”), French filmmaker Gondry does a masterful job of making an often bewildering set of circumstances into something thoughtful that tugs at the heart just as much as it does the mind. The performances by Carrey and Winslet are remarkable for their honesty, and the rest of the talented cast is very strong as well. The film is widely considered to be one of the finest of 2004 and it is easy to see why.
While the DVD is thorough in its bonus features, it lacks somewhat in the technical department. This actually reflects the focus of the filmmakers, who wanted a rather raw and unpolished look to the film, which appropriately tells the story in a more effective way. After all, the story is about memories and the pain and happiness of relationships, something we can all relate to and something that was chosen to be shown in a non-theatrical light, as Gondry puts it. Therefore, while the transfer is sharp enough for a recent film, there is nothing particularly notable about it. All of the sound mixes seem to do about the same in terms of mixing the dialogue high and sliding the music in at rather interesting intervals, which, if I recall correctly from seeing the film in the theatre, is consistent with the release prints.
While not technically excellent, this edition is chock full of goodies, including even a couple of Easter eggs, which I haven’t seen in a little while. I’ve said it before, every DVD should have at least one Easter egg, even if it lasts for 10 seconds. The two stores of deleted/extended scenes are long and reveal some of the editing choices that the filmmakers had to make. It would have been nice to have had Gondry make a few comments either before, after or during the clips, but the only time he talks about editing is during the feature commentary. The producers of this DVD were cognizant of the fact that this is an unusual film, so they tried to represent that quirkiness as best they could. There are two separate candid interviews with Gondry and Carrey and Gondry and Winslet, in which they talk about the pleasures and frustrations of working on such a complex film. These are great little bits, because they go far beyond what the featurette (the usual 20 minutes of television promotional ho-hum) does in terms of cast interviews. Gondry himself is all over the place, which will no doubt prove helpful for those who need a while to adapt to his heavy French accent. One of the best bits is the analysis of the Saratoga Street scene, which breaks down one important scene in terms of acting, cinematography, directing, sound and special effects. Drawing upon multiple interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and schematics, this bit effectively looks at one scene in an in-depth way that indicates just how much is involved in producing even one scene in a film.
One of the better audio commentaries of recent memory features director Gondry and screenwriter Kaufman, who seem to exhibit the rapport of kindred spirits. They talk at length about many subjects that come to mind, choosing not to simply discuss every scene blow by blow in abstract detail as is so often the case with commentaries. It is refreshing that there are so many interviews included with this very unusual and intriguing film, so that fans and newcomers alike will delight in not only the film but in the understanding of who and what went into its creation.