If you had the chance to wipe out the worst thing that ever happened to you to make it so that no memory of the event at all, would you, do it? Or more importantly, should you, do it? These are the questions at the heart of the movie “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”. It was first released in 2004, but even today people continue to be in love with this. People felt connected to the relationship the couple had in the movie; they weren’t like one of those unrealistic fairy tale couples movies usually show us, rather they were very normal like us.
Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. It follows an estranged couple who have erased each other from their memories. Pierre Bismuth created the story with Kaufman and Gondry. The ensemble cast includes Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson.
The title of the film is a quotation from the 1717 poem, Eloisa, to Abelard by Alexander Pope. Though the cast did a great job, once you watch the film, you’ll realise that the uncredited star of the movie is the human brain. The film uses elements of psychological thriller, science fiction, and a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love.
The story-told backward is a typical enough film gadget, generally used to cover data from the crowd. Yet, Kaufman and Gondry use it to an alternate end, steadily uncovering not secret realities yet failed to remember feelings. There are no startling turns or abrupt disclosures about Joel and Clementine, simply a contemplative in reverse perspective on adoration’s rot. Dissimilar to Kaufman’s past work, Eternal Sunshine sets out not to paralyze us with the inventiveness of its tricks, but instead to twisted us with the sincere commonality of its assumption.
Their relationship escalates into a supposedly dead-end when he learns that she had him erased from her memory. Furious and confused, he contacts the inventor of this advanced process, Dr. Howard Mierzwaik (Tom Wilkinson). Out of sheer desperation, he resorts to the only logical solution at the time, removing her from his memory as well. But as he re-experiences the passionate days of their earlier relationship, he falls in love with her all over again. He tries to hide her in her memory so he doesn’t forget her. We see how most of the movie is inside Joel’s brain. Nevertheless, his memory is erased and when he wakes up, he has no memory of her.
One of the philosophical inquiries this film poses is whether we are just the sum of our memories or if there’s more to us than a summation of past encounters. You may forget a past memory but you can’t forget the impulses, instincts, and emotions that arose from that past incident. They are in some sense untouchable because they shape who we are. The weak link in Lacuna’s process is that it successfully erases memories but can’t erase feelings. “There’s something weirdly ephemeral about Eternal Sunshine,” Brian Johnson of Maclean’s wrote following the film’s theatrical release.
“Just two days after seeing it, my own memory of the film has almost completely evaporated, like a dream. Which is not to say that the movie is forgettable–I’m still clinging to the strange but familiar emotions it raised, and am curious to see it again to see just where they came from.” Johnson was on to something: The film provokes an intense, yet oddly unspecific emotional response. Like a memory that has been not-quite-successfully erased. Or maybe a smell.