Tuesday, October 19, 2004

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE GARDEN STATE; EXPECT OCCASIONAL CLOUDS AND SHOWERS

We don't forget quickly enough.
In an age of immediate gratification, our minds don’t work nearly as fast as the rest of our body does. When we're in a rush, we run. When we're hungry, we eat. When we ache, we take an aspirin. But yet when we truly ache, in a metaphorical sense, there is no quick fix. There is no solution that allows us to speed up a process of regeneration. Granted, we could spend our mornings listening to ELO but there's only so much Jeff Lynne can do. Yes, even Jeff Lynne is sometimes helpless.
Sometimes I wonder if I would really want to forget these aches. If I could erase things in my mind so they couldn't influence my day-to-day, would I?

There's a reason why Michael Gondry's glorious Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind resonates so deeply with the people of my age bracket. It's a movie that has tremendous cultural significance. Dismissing it merely as "hipster fare" would be an incredible mistake—it’s a masterpiece. In fact, its unresolved ending has haunted me since the day I saw it (last year, in mid-March). The two main characters, Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) have a relationship that borders on being a definite extreme--not many people I know have such a volatile and unhealthy dating experience but the degree of dysfunctionality is not the idea to harp on. The point is that most couples do have conflicts and obstacles. Unlike the musicals we grew up on, we don't break out into spontaneous song and dance. Life's a bitch and then we let it out in the backyard to run around and get the angst out of its system. Then we let it back in and cuddle with it on the couch. Philosopher Erich Fromm tells us that love is never a passive and immediate activity. It is a "stepping in" rather than a "falling in." The active, not the passive. Gondry shows us, albeit the extreme, that love, specifically their love, is not necessarily "healthy" but still very passionate and very emotional. That there’s room for growth and resolution just as long as the two characters step out of themselves. That despite Clementine's and Joel's wish to run away from one another, their feelings are too strong to deny. I commend Gondry for being so romantic in an unconventional way. I admire the movie for re-establishing the concept of fate and love for the cynical, disenchanted crowd.

Another movie I find people talking about a great deal nowadays is Garden State. Yes, it's a wonderful debut for director/writer/actor Zach Braff. A romantic tale of resolving the unresolved. I even enjoyed it (I can relate with losing a parent suddenly) but I would almost dare to dismiss it as being trite. Braff's vision is unrealistic and perhaps the complete opposite of Gondry's incredible and difficult-to-stomach reality. Braff, or "Large" in the movie, falls hopelessly in love with Natalie Portman in a span of four days and forms a connection unlike any other, a connection he is able to create after not accessing his emotions for twenty-some odd years. I’m not saying that the set-up is impossible but it does falsely create potentially unfulfilled expectations for the viewer. I remember discussing the movie with someone after having seen it and my inability to truly accept the premise. I guess I fall into the camp that believes we work towards something substantial and “real” and the other times, we dismiss the beautiful challenges in our life too soon (yes, challenges can be beautiful). But what I did learn from the Garden State is that on occasion, we find ourselves in situations that we couldn't possibly have counted on-- the keyword there is “counted.” You may think something wonderful won’t happen to you but the beauty of your life is that it just could…any second now.
Granted, it rarely occurs as quickly as it did for Braff’s Large, especially in a surrounding like Newark, New Jersey, but who knows? New Jersey is a weird and magical place.

In Eternal Sunshine, Joel and Clementine have the portion of their respective minds that contain their mutual and shared history erased. As I wondered above, would I do something like that?
I would like to think I wouldn't.
Love takes time and experience. I know this now.

2 Comments:

Blogger IVY said...

I feel like I've only had that experience, the one you coined "wanting to get away" but the feelings are too strong. I like how you said it. That is the only way I feel when I like somebody, and it is rare and it hurts.

3:37 AM  
Blogger IVY said...

Maybe people just dont have tenderness in their lives anymore, so that movie maybe touched on something that missing. I wouldt know.

3:38 AM  

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