Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Eraserhead, the Love Story

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;

Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard

If you could selectively remove memories, would you do it? Past embarrassments, loves lost, life’s failures or disappointments could be excised with scalpel-like precision. And if you had the technology to selectively remove someone else’s memories, would you do it? For money?

Selectively removing memories would change who one is in more than obvious ways. I would lose part of my humanity, part of my potential as a person, the part of my life that ripples out from that which they erased. My reaction to everything that has come before, as much the bad as the good, is who I am today. To erase that would be like receiving a noninvasive frontal lobotomy.

To provide such a service for money is immoral.

This is the premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Love is cast as the experience that resonates in the character’s lives in spite of what’s cut out and cauterized from their memories.

This psychological premise provides the backdrop to a fragmented non-linier plot about love and destiny. A major portion of the movie occurs in the imagination of Jim Cary’s character, Joel. There are numerous flashbacks reinforcing the emotional storyline. The origami plot can only be put all together once the movie is over--very nicely done.

Kate Winslet plays Jim Cary’s love interest. She's a insecure girl who admits, “I’m not a concept, I’m just a freaked out girl who’s looking for her own peace of mind.” (Okay, since I saw this on a plane, she probably doesn't say "freaked" in the movie.) Jim Cary does well in this dramatic role—a more “pure” dramatic role than he played in “Truman.” In one of the beginning scenes on a train, Cary does a great a great Jack Nicholson impression, so subtle that I missed it the first time around. The rest of the cast is great as well.

I loved the movie, and the critics agreed. Okay, the movie is sort of a downer, but it has a happy ending. And the character’s reactions to their plights is noble and compelling.

(Apologies to David Lynch.)


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