Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michel Gondry|
|Screenplay by||Charlie Kaufman|
|Music by||Jon Brion|
|Edited by||Valdís Óskarsdóttir|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$72.3 million|
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American science fiction romantic comedy film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. It follows an estranged couple who have erased each other from their memories, then, started dating again. 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.
The film uses elements of the psychological thriller and a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love. It opened in North America to wide acclaim on March 19, 2004, and grossed over $70 million worldwide. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Winslet received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress. The film developed a cult following in the years after its release and is now regarded by many critics as one of the greatest films of the 21st century.
Shy, soft-spoken Joel Barish and unrestrained free-spirit Clementine Kruczynski begin a relationship on a Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk to Rockville Centre. They are almost immediately drawn to each other, despite their contrasting personalities, and both had felt the need to travel to Montauk that day. Although they do not realize it, Joel and Clementine are former lovers, now separated after having spent two years together. After a fight, Clementine had hired the New York City firm Lacuna, Inc. to erase all her memories of their relationship. Upon discovering this from his friends Rob and Carrie, Joel was devastated and decided to undergo the procedure himself, a process that takes place while he sleeps.
Much of the film subsequently takes place in Joel's mind, during this memory erasure procedure. Joel finds himself revisiting his memories of Clementine in reverse, starting from the disintegration of their relationship. As he comes across happier, positive memories of Clementine early in his relationship, he decides to preserve at least some memory of her and his love for her, trying to evade the procedure by taking his idealized memory of Clementine into memories not related to her or waking up to stop the process. Despite his efforts, the memories are steadily erased. He comes to the last remaining memory of Clementine, the day he had first met her at a beach house in Montauk. As this memory disintegrates around them, she tells him, "Meet me in Montauk."
Separate, but related, story arcs revolving around the employees of Lacuna are revealed during Joel's memory erasure. Patrick, one of the Lacuna technicians performing the erasure, uses Joel's memories and mannerisms to seduce and romance Clementine. Mary, the Lacuna receptionist, is dating the other memory-erasing technician, Stan, but has feelings for Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, a married doctor and the head of Lacuna. During Joel's memory wipe, Mary discovers she had previously had an affair with Dr. Mierzwiak and agreed to have this erased from her memory when Dr. Mierzwiak's wife found out. On learning this, she asks Stan whether he knew about this, to which he claims that he didn't. Mary then quits her job and steals the company's records, mailing them to all of Lacuna's customers out of revenge.
The film returns to the present after Joel and Clementine have met at the train station of Montauk. They both come upon their Lacuna records later that day, and react with shock and bewilderment – they have no clear memory of having known each other, let alone having had a relationship and having had their memories erased. Joel pleads with Clementine to restart their relationship; Clementine initially resists, pointing out it could go the same way. Joel accepts this and they decide to try anyway.
- Jim Carrey as Joel Barish: Joel is an introvert who enters a two-year relationship with Clementine Kruczynski before erasing her from his mind after they break-up and after she erases him from her memory. Charlie Kaufman wrote Joel with autobiographical personality traits. Producers cast Carrey against type for his role as Joel. Carrey was selected for his regular appearance, as well as his comedic ability, as according to Michel Gondry, "[I]t's hard to be funny. It's far easier to take someone really funny and bring them down than do the opposite." To make Carrey, an actor who typically portrayed high-energy roles, play a restrained character, Gondry prevented him from improvising, a restriction he did not place on the other members of the cast. Carrey did not like this. Gondry would also put Carrey off balance by giving wrong orders or by rolling the camera at the wrong time. Gondry believed this would make Carrey forget what he should do to be the character, allowing him to go in-character. In the 2017 Netflix documentary Jim & Andy, Carrey mentions a conversation with Gondry one year before shooting began for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, shortly after Carrey had a breakup with an unspecified woman. Gondry saw that Carrey's emotional state at the time was "so beautiful, so broken" and asked him to stay that way for one year to fit the character. In the documentary, Carrey commented, "That's how fucked up this business is." Nicolas Cage was Gondry's original choice to play Joel, but Cage was unable to do the role as he was in high demand from independent directors after his performance in Leaving Las Vegas.
- Ryan Whitney as young Joel
- Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski: Clementine is a spontaneous extrovert who, after breaking up with Joel Barish after a two-year relationship, erases him from her mind. Winslet was cast against type for her part as Clementine, having previously featured in period pieces, and received the role after she was the only actress to offer criticism on the script instead of pandering to the writers. After another actress won an Oscar, the studio attempted to make Gondry use her instead of Winslet for the role of Clementine, but Gondry threatened to walk from the project if that occurred. During filming, Gondry took Winslet to separate rooms to coach her, and she wore wigs instead of dying her hair. The character of Clementine has been noted several times to serve as a critique of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stock character before the phrase itself had been coined. The character's criticism of the stock character is predominantly present in her remark: "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours." With her impulsiveness, emotion intensity (extreme mood changes), alcohol dependence, turbulent relationships, reckless behavior, and hasty idealization/devaluation of Joel, Clementine seems to exhibit traits of Borderline Personality Disorder, although it is not clear whether her character was written with this specific diagnosis in mind.
- Lola Daehler as young Clementine
- Kirsten Dunst as Mary Svevo: Mary is the receptionist for Lacuna who has a crush on Howard. While erasing Joel's memory, Howard's wife catches her kissing Howard. Howard's wife reveals Mary previously had a relationship with Howard which Howard erased from her mind. In revenge for the deception, she mails Lacuna's company records to the customers.
- Mark Ruffalo as Stan Fink: Stan is a technician for Lacuna who is in a relationship with Mary until the reveal of her previous relationship with Howard. Ruffalo received the role of Stan after providing an "unexpected take on the role" to Gondry when he suggested Stan be a fan of The Clash and look like Joe Strummer.
- Elijah Wood as Patrick: Patrick is a technician for Lacuna who enters a relationship with Clementine by imitating Joel. They break up when Joel and Clementine begin dating for the second time.
- Tom Wilkinson as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak: Howard runs Lacuna. Before the film's events, he had an affair with Mary, which ended with the relationship's erasure from her mind. Wilkinson reportedly did not enjoy the shooting of the film and frequently disagreed with Gondry.
- Jane Adams as Carrie Eakin: Joel's friend. She is in a troubled relationship with Rob.
- David Cross as Rob Eakin: Joel's friend. He is in a troubled relationship with Carrie.
- Deirdre O'Connell as Hollis Mierzwiak: Howard's wife
- Thomas Jay Ryan as Frank: Joel's neighbor
- Debbon Ayer as Joel's mother
The concept of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came from 1998 conversations between Michel Gondry and the film's co-writer Pierre Bismuth. The pair had met and become friends in the early 1980s during Gondry's drumming career in the French pop group Oui Oui. Bismuth had conceived of the idea of erasing certain people from people's minds in response to a friend complaining about her boyfriend; when he asked her if she would erase that boyfriend from her memory, she said yes. Bismuth originally was going to conduct an art experiment involving sending cards to people saying someone they knew had erased the card’s recipient from their memory. When he mentioned this to Gondry, they developed it into a story based on the situations that would arise if it were scientifically possible. Bismuth never conducted the experiment.
Gondry approached Charlie Kaufman with this concept, the two having worked previously together for Kaufman's Human Nature. Gondry and Kaufman together further developed the story a short pitch. While the writers did not believe the concept to be marketable, a small bidding war began over the idea. It was purchased on June 12, 1998, for a low seven-figure sum by Steve Golin of Propaganda Films. Kaufman, who was responsible for writing the screenplay, did not begin immediately, instead opting to suspend writing while he was working on Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Human Nature. During this time, the film Memento was released, which similarly deals with memory. Due to the similarities, Kaufman became worried and attempted to pull out of the project, but Golin made him complete it. During writing, the pitch's ownership changed several times thus Kaufman did not have to deal with the studios until the end of the scriptwriting process. The final script made the studios nervous.
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot?
The world forgetting, by the world forgot:
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned;
Kaufman did not want to make the film a thriller and wanted to downplay the science fiction aspects of memory erasure, focusing on the relationship. He had an "enormous struggle" with the script, particularly encountering two problems while writing the script: showing "the memories, Joel's reactions to the memories, and Joel interacting with Clementine outside of the memories in the memories," and the fact that characters could refer in later scenes to a memory that had already been erased. Kaufman solved the first problem by making Joel lucid and able to comment on his memories and solved the second by making the memories degrade instead of immediately erasing, with complete erasure occurring at awakening. Kaufman's original title for the screenplay was 18 words long, as he had wanted a title which "you couldn't possibly fit on a marquee," however, he eventually decided on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a title coming from the 1717 poem Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope.
The shooting of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind began in mid-January 2003 after six weeks of preparation, lasting for three months on a budget of $20 million mostly in and around New York City. Some key scenes, however, such as Joel's Yonkers apartment and the 1950s-style kitchen, were recreated in a New Jersey former U.S. Navy base.
The shoot was challenging for cinematographer Ellen Kuras, due to the difficulty of filming Gondry's vision for the film, which aimed to "blend location-shoot authenticity with unpredictable flashes of whimsy." According to this vision, Gondry wanted available light used exclusively for the shoot. Kuras disagreed with this choice and would get around it by lighting the room instead of the actors and by hiding light bulbs around the set to increase light levels. Another issue encountered by the cinematographers was the frequent improvisation, the lack of marks and the few rehearsals completed, meaning the cinematographers often did not know where the actors would be. Two handheld cameras filmed near 360-degree footage at all times, shooting 36 000 feet of film a day to deal with this. Gondry called back to the work of famed French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard by filming using wheelchairs as well as using sled and chariot dollies instead of traditional dollies. When using wheelchairs, the shot was not consistently smooth, however as Kuras liked the aesthetic of the low-angle, wobbly movement, the final film contains the footage.
The film used minimal CGI, with many effects accomplished in-camera, through forced perspectives, hidden space, spotlighting, unsynchronized sound, split focus and continuity editing. A notable example is the ocean washing away the house in Montauk; the production team accomplished this by building the corner of a house on the shore and allowing the tide to come in. Carrying out this effect was difficult as the special team hired to place the set in the water refused, citing dangers. Gondry in response fired the team and had the production team, including the actors and producers, place the set in the water. In retaliation for Gondry's actions, the chief of the union reprimanded Gondry in front of the crew.
Kaufman engaged in script rewriting during production; thus several discrepancies exist between the production script and the final film. A fundamental difference is that in the production script, with the erasure of each memory, Clementine behaves increasingly robotic. In the final film, Winslet plays Clementine straight, and degradation of settings and the intrusion of settings upon each other establish memory degradation visually. Another script component which did not make it into the final film was the appearance of Naomi, Joel's girlfriend. Despite Kaufman's insistence on Naomi’s inclusion, the production cut her already filmed scenes.
Icelandic editor Valdís Óskarsdóttir edited the film, and she reportedly conflicted with Gondry during editing. Charlie Kaufman was also very involved in the editing of the film. Editing was a long process as there was no requirement to rush it. There were a few test screenings of the film, which elicited positive reactions.
Produced on a budget of $20 million, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opened on March 19, 2004, in the United States, earning $8,175,198 in its opening weekend in 1,353 theaters. The film placed seventh in the weekend's box office, and remained in theaters for 19 weeks, earning $34,400,301 in the United States and $37,857,825 in international markets for a total of $72,258,126 worldwide. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is, as of June 2018, Kaufman's most profitable, and Gondry's second most profitable film.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 238 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 89 out of 100, based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times in his initial 2004 review gave the film 3½ out of a possible 4. He revisited the film in 2010 when he referred to Kaufman as "the most gifted screenwriter of the 2000s" and revised the rating to a full 4 stars, adding it to his "Great Movies" list. A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film for being "cerebral, formally and conceptually complicated, dense with literary allusions and as unabashedly romantic as any movie you'll ever see". Time Out summed up their review by saying, "the formidable Gondry/Kaufman/Carrey axis works marvel after marvel in expressing the bewildering beauty and existential horror of being trapped inside one's own addled mind, and in allegorising the self-preserving amnesia of a broken but hopeful heart."
Winslet and Carrey received acclaim for their performances. Winslet's performance as Clementine received multiple award nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and it was placed 81st in Premiere magazine's 2008 list of 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. Claudia Puig in a review for USA Today said of her performance that "Winslet is wonderful as a free spirit whose hair color changes along with her moods. She hasn't had such a meaty role in a while, and she plays it just right." Carrey's performance as Joel also received multiple award nominations. Jason Killingsworth in a review for Paste magazine said of his performance that "Carrey nails the part, winning audience sympathy from the opening moments of the film".
In the Autumn 2008 issue of Screen Journal, Carol Vernallis argued out that Gondry's experience in directing music videos contributed to the film's mise-en-scène and sound design. Vernallis describes some threads of the visual, aural and musical motifs throughout the film, and how some motifs can work in counterpoint.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was nominated for two Oscars at the 77th Academy Awards, with Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry, and Charlie Kaufman winning for Best Original Screenplay, while Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film was nominated for four awards at the 62nd Golden Globes, and for six awards at the 58th British Academy Awards, including Best Film, winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing.
In October 2016, Anonymous Content announced they will be working with Universal Cable Productions to produce a television series based on the film. Kaufman is not involved in writing the show. The project is still in planning stages.
|2005||Writers Guild of America||101 Greatest Screenplays||24|||
|2008||Empire||The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time||73|||
|2009||Time Out New York||The TONY Top 50 Movies of the Decade||3|||
|Slant Magazine||The 100 Best Films of the Aughts||86|||
|Paste||The 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)||5|||
|The A.V. Club||The Best Films of the '00s||1|||
|Metacritic||Film Critics Pick the Best Movies of the Decade||2|||
|2016||BBC||The 21st Century's 100 Greatest Films||6|||
|2018||Empire||The 100 Greatest Movies||41|||
|They Shoot Pictures Don't They||The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films||5|||
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind|
|Soundtrack album by Jon Brion|
|Released||March 16, 2004|
Kathy Nelson (executive producer)|
Tim DeLaughter (track 4)
Jon Brion (track 9)
Don Nelson (tracks 11 and 20)
Ethan Johns (track 18)
|Jon Brion chronology|
The soundtrack album for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was composed by Los Angeles musician Jon Brion, also featuring songs from artists including The Polyphonic Spree, The Willowz, and Don Nelson. The soundtrack was released by Hollywood Records on March 16, 2004. A cover version of The Korgis' "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" with instrumentation by Brion and vocals by Beck operates as the soundtrack's centerpiece, setting the film's tone in the opening credits, and closing the film.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's soundtrack received generally positive reviews. AllMusic described it as "nearly as deft", and described Brion's score as "intimate" and "evocative of love and memories". Other positive reviews noted the ambient nature of the music and lauded Beck's cover of "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime." On the other hand, the soundtrack's detractors criticised the album's lack of identity, and it's depressive atmosphere. Even among the detractors however, the scores ability to mesh with the plot was lauded, an appraisal common to many reviews.
|2.||"Mr. Blue Sky"||Electric Light Orchestra||5:03|
|3.||"Collecting Things"||Jon Brion||1:13|
|4.||"Light & Day"||The Polyphonic Spree||3:03|
|6.||"It's the Sun" (KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic version)||The Polyphonic Spree||5:33|
|7.||"Wada Na Tod, Mera Man Tera Pyasa"||Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi||5:54|
|9.||"Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" (The Korgis cover)||Beck||5:54|
|10.||"Sidewalk Flight"||Jon Brion||0:31|
|11.||"Some Kinda Shuffle"||Don Nelson||2:11|
|12.||"Howard Makes It All Go Away"||Jon Brion||0:14|
|15.||"I Wonder"||The Willowz||2:56|
|16.||"Peer Pressure"||Jon Brion||1:12|
|17.||"A Dream Upon Waking"||Jon Brion||3:36|
|18.||"Strings That Tie to You"||Jon Brion||2:33|
|19.||"Phone Call"||Jon Brion||1:03|
|20.||"Nola's Bounce"||Don Nelson||1:56|
|21.||"Down The Drain"||Jon Brion||0:56|
|23.||"Drive In"||Jon Brion||2:19|
|24.||"Main Title"||Jon Brion||1:23|
|25.||"Spotless Mind"||Jon Brion||1:12|
|26.||"Elephant Parade"||Jon Brion||0:28|
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