Last night, we went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ll add my enthusiastic endorsement for the spectacular brilliance of this film. Whether it’s Kaufman’s creative screenwriting, Gondry’s directing, Carrey’s talented acting, or all of the above and more, I don’t care. Something comes together in this film that makes for a wonderful experience. All of us left the theater, nodding our heads, unable to immediately identify exactly what it was we liked so much about the movie.
I solidly enjoyed Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich when it was released several years ago, but had not yet seen any of his other works. To catch up on the Kaufman style before going to see Eternal Sunshine, I rented Adaptation this past weekend, and liked it just as much, if not more than Malkovich.
Rather than spoil any of the mentioned movies by drilling into them too deeply, I’ll note an observation, punctuated by recent exposure to two more Kaufman pieces. I’ve noticed the modern movie-going experience is evolving the “reality-as-entertainment” idea. For decades, movies enabled us to escape our own realities, temporarily transporting us to another location, another life, or another world. Reality in movies featured the often unattainable greener-grass side of life: glamorous lifestyles, careless cowboys, and perfectly scripted love stories with happy endings. Through the ’70s and ’80s, some movies shifted away from reality, leaving confines of this world, going back in time, or depicting scenarios of the future. The ’90s brought us Hollywood’s version of doom-and-gloom reality, painting overly grim pictures of hyper violence and mass destruction.
Recent movies like Memento, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine pull back from the over dramatic urban destruction. They throw away the notion of chronological story telling. Instead, they toy with our minds (and characters’ minds), shift the time/space continuum, and travel far beyond traditional dream sequences, challenging our perceptions of the movie’s own “reality”. Is this really happening? Or is this how the character remembers it happening? Did this happen before or after the last scene? Where are we now? Is this yesterday or tomorrow? I thought this already happened?
Eternal Sunshine is an original, entertaining experience right along these lines. One of those love it or hate it movies. If you like the style of Kaufman’s other works, Sunshine is definitely worth your time if you haven’t yet seen it.