ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Michel Gondry (2004)
Mood affects activies beyond our understanding. Not only that, but also the atmosphere, the companion, the weather…many external factors influence on the impact we receive when listening to a record, observing a painting or watching a movie.
I had seen this film 3-4 years ago, and didn’t understand why such cult around it. I thought it to be boring, abstract, and not very clear, you can add that I’m not a big fan of Jim Carrey, then the final verdict was thumbs down.
The fact that one of my best friends digs a lot, and considering he’s quite rough and extreme in his judgments, black or white and not much of grey in between, made me go for a second chance. This time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made a great impression.
Having the story still very fresh, I don’t really know how to label this film. Many references come to my head. On one hand, all the memory erasing procedure brings me to Total Recall, and all the love and lack of love story makes me think of Blue Valentine.
Among other qualities and features, chaos and impulsiveness reign in Clementine’s life (Kate Winslet). Sick of her relationship with Joel(Jim Carrey), contracts the services of Lacuna, experts in memory erasure, and undergoes this deleting and resetting procedure. Her decision is irreversible and unilateral, and Joel, after trying to contact her to see why she’s acting so erratic, eventually finds out what she’s done.
Miserable and devastated, he can’t cope with the situation, thus submitting to the memory erasure seems the only logic solution to overcome his pain. He bursts into Lacuna office demanding a quick and urgent action, as they are already involved in his misery. Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) promises the effective remedy for his suffering, assisted by Stan (Mark Ruffalo), who will conduct all the procedure while Joel is sleeping, together with Patrick (Elijah Wood).
In order to erase any memories, which include the tiniest details, Joes is required to collect any single item which reminds him of Clementine, thus, thanks to a mapping procedure collecting all the bran movements or reactions towards these objects, Stan will be able to reach any corner in his brain which might contain Clem in it. Mapping aside, as standard, an extended interview with impressions, explanations related to the erasing process and the reasons is tape recorded, to be included in the personal file of each client.
It’s the perfect job, with no claiming afterwards, as patients never remember their visit to Lacuna, and they’re responsible for notifying acquaintances of this procedure, so there won’t be any future side effects.
Joel is ready. he buys new pajamas, follows the instructions advised by Dr. Mierzwiak and quickly passes out. It’s time Stan and Patrick take care of business, but distractions related to women will prevent them from performing professionally. On one hand, Patrick had a crush on Clementine and thanks to his knowledge of her situation and things she confessed during her interview, he’s managed to become her boyfriend. But she, for no apparent reason feels awkward and estranged, and needs him to be by her side. On the other, Stan and the gorgeous nurse at Lacuna, Mary (Kirsten Dunst) are secretly dating, and she stops by to make some companion and have some fun.
The sedatives are not working as they should and within his dream Joel notices something weird is going on. At the same time he’s recalling all those good and bad moments with Clementine and eventually he realizes he doesn’t want to lose those great past times they lived. That’s not the solution for easing the pain. So his dream and his conscious part will turn into a huge struggle against memory loss, trying to hide what le loves most, Clementine, in hidden corners of his mind memories, not related to her.
Things are happening at the same time both inside Joel’s mind, and in the real world. Events and feelings which prove that mind erasing is not the magical solution for certain problems, and all the characters involved, eventually suffer the consequences.
When I started watching the film this last time, and the concept of memory erasing was introduced, I thought that was something that would have perfectly worked for me, and even nowadays, when I can say I’ve overcome my sentimental wreckage but still scars aren’t totally healed, I thought of it as perfectly valid.
Considering an inner mechanism has blocked most of my memories of a 10-year relationship naturally, and I’m talking serious, I found it workable. Truth is that in a relationship you share experiences such as travelling, shows and many other events I love, and partial erasure is not conceived.
Memory erasure would work if you never had contact with the source of those memories again, but, and this is the reason why all this procedure fails, memories are highly influenced by feelings, and your sensitivity remains intact. Therefore, Clementine feels weird because she doesn’t know she still misses Joel, and after Lacuna’s intervention, when they meet on the train the attraction is instant. Relationships among human beings are said to be pure chemistry combination of hormones, right?
No, deleting memories is not fair, otherwise people making mistakes or choosing wrong, or hurting people, would be abusing of this method, that would become kind of artificial reset. Whatever causes you pain or sadness must be faced and overcome from within yourself. What would you do if one morning you received a letter confirming your best friend has erased you from his memories and consequently from his life without your consent and acceptance? You wouldn’t react positive, that’s for sure.
The dynamism of the film, the mayhem and unsteadiness of the camera, and the different levels of narration, past-present-future, past within past, and these time combinations, can contribute to a sense of chaos if you’re in the right mood, you won’t definitely enjoy. I remember the first time I saw the film, Clem’s hair color changing, cars crashing on the asphalt, things vanishing… Christopher Nolan’s Inception was the opposite, with the adding and the creation of a fake world, but carefully explained and detailed, highlighting those changes of stages, however, in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, that separation is subtly marked by lights, settings and attitudes.
The story of Joel and Clementine is as standard as many others. A couple which reaches that point in which monotony and routines reign. Clem as an unstable woman can’t endure that situation any longer and carries out her personal choice without considering Joel’s feelings nor even hers. Too sad and ridiculous, the miracle, the easy way out, eventually fails.
Progress and the power of our minds sometimes do not work fine mixed, luckily for us!