Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which premiered exactly ten years ago, is one of the movies that I hold closest to my heart. It was one of the movies that made me love the medium. I was twelve years old when I rented this from Blockbuster and discovered what a great movie could be capable of. That first viewing was all about the structure and crazyness of the story, even though I loved it, it wasn’t until later rewatches (and me becoming older and smarter) that I started to grasp the movie’s real genius.
There is so much I could say about Eternal Sunshine, but since this is for “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”, Nathaniel Rogers’ amazing series hosted at The Film Experience, I’ll focus on the cinematography. That was a technical aspect of the movie that I, weirdly, had always taken for granted. Even though I absolutely loved the movie’s visuals, I never stopped to realize “yeah, that is some pretty amazing photography work”.
Something that might seem a little superficial, but that definitely helps the movie be as effective as it is, is DP Ellen Kuras’s perfect realization of what memories look like. For most of the movie, we are basically in Joel’s Id. The closest I have experienced to being inside someone’s Id is when I’m dreaming, and by God, does Kuras manage to capture the look and feel of what it’s like to dream. Never have my dreams looked like the polished Inception. Or the whimsical The Science of Sleep. When I dream, my world looks just as messy and scary as Joel’s memories.
My favorite moment as far as the recreation of dreams go, is one scene in which Joel and Clementine are talking while lying in bed. As Clementine starts complaining about how Joel says she talks too much, the scene slowly turns darker and a cold spotlight is thrown on the couple. This feels to me like that moment when you realize you’re actually dreaming, and everything is recontextualized. Suddenly, Joel is aware this is a memory, just like it happens to me when I dream.