Top 10 Movies: #7 – Eternal Sunshine (Reconstructivist Art)

I’m re-running my post on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to commemorate the fact that it’s not only an exemplar of  Reconstructivist Art, it is also movie #7 on my personal top 10 movies list.

In the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the aggressively intellectual, post-modernist and experimental inclinations of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman were synthesized with the dream-drenched classic humanism of director Michel Gondry to create a remarkable piece of cinema. The film dramatizes the reconstructivist process of deconstruction followed by rebuilding, in the form of a romantic drama about an embittered couple who elect to undergo a medical procedure to erase all memories of their relationship.

(1) Nod to Artifice: Nearly the entire movie is presented as taking place within the brain/memory/imagination of the main character, although this fact is initially not clear to either him or the audience. Since the character’s memories are being deliberately dismantled, many of the film’s most striking images are different visual representations of a world being unmade –buildings crumbling, objects falling from the sky, people vanishing, things going dark and blurry, colors disappearing, and so forth. The audio of the film also features a reoccurring sound motif, a computerized beep similar to a filmstrip advance noise, that represents the completion of the erasure of a memory.

(2) Classic Structure: The plot of the movie follows what is often called the “oldest of all plotlines”: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl. The movie presents the events in reverse chronology, but (interestingly enough), this does not alter the overall structure.

(3) Iconic and Transcontextual Elements: The most important set of icons and transcontextual elements in the movie are not imported from external sources, as is more typical of reconstructivist art, but are iconicized and transcontextualized within the continuity of movie itself. They are a set of subjectively objects and personal effects, gathered by the main character as an aid to the memory-erasure process, that appear both within his mental reveries, and externally, as misappropriated by the main character’s romantic rival.

(4) Moments of Genuine Depth and Emotion: The crux of the movie is the moment at the very end when the main characters, their affections for each other having literally been disassembled and deconstructed,, make the decision, even in the face of evidence of their essential incompatibility, to believe in the Reality of their love.

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