Time, Death, and Finitude In “Synecdoche, New York”
In the most simplistic mode, death is part of life. To be living is to be dying but the arrival of death constitutes the end of being. Take this passage from Heidegger’s “Being And Time”:
“Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. Thus
death reveals itself as that possibility which is one’s ownmost, which
is non-relational, and which is not to be outstripped. As such, death is
something distinctively impending.”
(BT, 50: 294)
Death cannot achieve arrival in terms of the existence of the Dasein, but merely impend. The only way to view death is as an impending possibility because when the possibility finally becomes actualized the Dasein ends, or becomes impossible. So, the Dasein must exist with the knowledge of its possible impossibility in order to grasp it’s own existence. In the postmodern sense, being is contingent on being towards something, in this case: being-towards-death. In Kauffman’s “Synecdoche, New York”, when Caden is speaking to his cast, he tells them “we are all ‘dying’, hurling ourselves towards death”, and his struggle to “get at something real” becomes his struggle to understand his own fragmented mortality.
It is important to highlight the difference between death and dying. Dying is the state in which the living finds itself. Death itself is not part of living but rather the end of it. It is the demise of the Dasein and it’s completion. Once dead the Dasein is no longer moving towards-death and ceases to exist. Caden, on his deathbed, at the end of the film, realizes how to complete the play that is representative of his own life, by achieving his own demise. The “something real” is that the play itself becomes part of his life rather than a representation of it, even the real Caden is an imitation of Caden and thus a being split into two, a Caden-towards-Caden existence, constantly finding...