Michael Gondry’s Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (2004) is not your typical Hollywood rom-com. Its cinematic style is very original and by far out of the ordinary for its genre. The use of techniques and the way the film is produced is the reason why it is so memorable. The non-linear narrative is based around a middle-aged guy who falls in love with a woman, who, after a while into their relationship decides to erase every single memory and feeling towards him. The story is told in flashbacks that slowly reveal the time and space the couple spent together and all the events that made up their relationship.
Silvey states that “The innovative use of narrative, mise en scène, cinematography, editing and the soundtrack in the film all serve to convey the tenderness, confusion, miscommunication, pain and hope that accompany romantic endeavours.” [SILVEY 2009: 139]. I will be discussing and critically analyzing the exact same concepts as above in my argument and how they contribute to such a stylistic storyline. I will also be comparing techniques used in this film to such ones in other films.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind is a mind-blowing story about a man called Joel Barish who finds himself in a life-changing situation when he accidentally discovers that his long-term girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski has undergone a brain procedure which erases someone from the mind, in this case clementine erases Joel from her memory, leaving her with no memories what so ever of him. He decides the best way to cure his broken heart is to undergo the same process and erase Clementine for good. But as his memory loss commences he finds himself trapped in his own memories, watching them as they disappear. Half way through he realizes he no longer wants to erase Clementine and tries his very best to keep hold of his living memories.
The style of editing in Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind is undoubtedly the most recognizable aspect that separates this film from a 'normal' love story. It has the typical love narrative moments but the way it is pieced together with its innovative narrative style is what puts it at a whole new level of originality. The film begins just like any other straightforward storyline would, but as the film continues it becomes clear to the audience that it is a non-linear narrative.
For the first couple of scenes the film doesn't give away any signs that it is beginning with the end of the film as their are no use of flashbacks or unusual techniques involved, but when Joel goes to sleep you realize that he is watching himself in his own dream, like he is having a flashback of himself talking to his neighbour about valentines day just hours after he had gone to sleep. He seems anxious and uncomfortable with the topic of conversation, especially when his neighbour mentions Clementine’s name. This is the point where you start to realize that the film is possibly in a non-linear narrative as his neighbour mentioned Clementine being Joel's girlfriend but the audience have only seen the couple together as friends and at the start of their friendship. From then on the film is told in flashbacks from the memory of Joel Barish' mind as he makes the decision to have the same procedure as Clementine did. As he watches his memories of Clementine fade away he realizes he is still in love with her and no longer wants to erase her so he tries everything he can to stop the procedure and keep the memories alive. The story of Joel and Clementine is then told through Joel’s memory erasing but it feels as if the story is being told backwards as each memory fades away. Objects, locations and people just disappear in front of Joel’s and the audience’s eyes.
The editing in the film makes the storyline more complex then it actually is. As Silvey writes...