The power of cinema lies in the effects films have on people. Films can make you cry, laugh, alter your opinions, influence you, be representative of a milestone in your life and can even change your life. Our new weekly film column, ‘The Film That…’, explores the impacts of cinema on people. This week, Mina Green shares how Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made her realise the power of memories.
Our memories are what make us who we are. They cling to our essence, they are fragile in their strength and they represent the complexity of our consciousness and what it means to be human. Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind explores the instability of our consciousness and the layers between reality and imagination. Heart-wrenching and self-effacing, this film tackles issues of love, loss and hope.
When I first watched this film, it brought to the surface the significance of our relationships in life and how they mould us. This film transcends the boundaries of our conscious and sub-conscious minds, revealing an endearing truth: the dichotomy of pain and pleasure is essential in our state as subjective beings. No matter how much a memory hurts, it’s worth holding on to.
Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind follows an estranged couple, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), through their journey in erasing the memories of one another. In the process, we are immersed in the intricacies of their relationship within Joel’s mind, piecing together fragments of their joys and their downfalls. In consciously choosing to erase Clementine from his mind, Joel re-lives their relationship in his memory chamber and as those memories begin to dissipate, he desperately tries to cling on to them. The film is poignant in its depiction of a failed relationship and the wistful ways that our emotions govern our experience.
As this film is non-linear, the time frame in which we experience Joel and Clementine’s relationship is elastic; this disorientation creates a fresh and pure understanding of the remains of their love and destruction. Clementine’s quirky and free-spirited demeanor contrasted to Joel’s distant and rational thinking provides an insight into human attraction and the ways relationships enable us to learn and grow. While we experience scenes and moments from Joel’s life and Clementine’s place in it, we feel nostalgic and reminiscent of our own past and the ghosts of our previous sentiments.
The most moving scene for me is when Joel solemnly relives the first time he met Clementine at a beach pary in Montauk. They break into a beach holiday home and as Joel desperately attempts to hold on to the memory, the house begins to disintegrate.
Clementine is self-aware in this memory and says: “This is it Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.”
Joel: “I know”.
Clementine: “What do we do?”
Joel: “Enjoy it.”
This scene is gut-wrenching in its somber re-telling of a first meeting. Living within the memory is the only way to preserve an experience, and our experiences make us who we are. The crumbling surroundings of this memory reflect the breakdown of his relationship with Clementine. Yet, despite understanding the pitfalls and aches the relationship brought him, loving her was worth enduring the hurt.
If you’re looking for an unconventional romantic story with a dash of science-fiction then this is the film for you. “Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”