Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughts on Eternal Sunshine

I just watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind again last night. As always, wow. If you haven't seen this amazing Michel Gondry film of 2004, written by the one-of-a-kind Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet (nominated for an Oscar), you must rent it TONIGHT! Call me and I'll loan it to you!

In broad strokes, (mild spoiler alert!) the film is about Joel and Clementine (Carrey and Winslet), a normal couple who fall in and eventually out of love with one another. Clementine, the impulsive one, has Joel erased from her memory. When Joel finds out, he is crushed, and in turn, agrees to have Clementine erased from his memory. The film follows Joel's memories of his relationship with Celementine (as they are erased!), and his gradual realization that he wants to keep the memories rather than lose them.

Unfortunately for Joel, the procedure gets completed, and he wakes up with no memory of the woman he once loved. Somehow, though, he and Clementine (neither remembering the other) go to Montauk the next day, meet up, and begin what they think is a new relationship. Confusing? Yes, you'll have to see the movie twice, but it's well worth it.

Meanwhile, a disenfranchised employee down at the memory-erasing office decides to mail former patients' files back to them, having decided that the whole memory erasing thing is immoral. The upshot is that Clementine and Joel, thinking they've just met for the first time, find themselves listening to tapes of each other telling the doctor why they'd like to erase their former lover. They hear all their complaints about each other before they get into the relationship! And then we get the following exchange:

Joel: I don't see anything I don't like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will, and I'll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that's what happens with me.
Joel: Okay.

Joel's "Okay" is a profound statement of love. Provided with empirical proof that this nascent relationship will not be idyllic, he decides that he loves Clementine enough to get into it anyway. I've thought since I first saw this film that this idea must have been Charlie Kaufman's inspiration: If two people knew a relationship wasn't going to work out, would they get into it anyway? How powerful is love?"

His conclusion is that love is very powerful...perhaps the ultimate power. Love causes us to do irrational things; behave in irresponsible ways. As Christians, we believe that love is the foundation of everything. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16). And this love, true to form, is irrational and irresponsible. It is love that is one-way, love that is unreturned. We are incapable of loving back in the same way that we are loved. We might say, with Clementine, "I'll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that's what happens with me." And Jesus, knowing us, and loving us, says, "Okay."

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