Week 7 Assignment.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

This is one of my favorite films ever – cinematic art at its finest.

This particular scene begins by establishing the setting – the main character’s (Joel) friends’ living room.  As he relates to them a story concerning his recent encounter with an ex-lover, Clementine, cross-cutting is used to transition back and forth between scenes of Joel’s unpleasant experience and the scene at present, all tied together through his consistent voice-over.

The camerawork is also shaky – but subtly and artfully – even around 00:30 when the action of the frame is completely oriented around him, serving to emphasize the uneasiness and restlessness he feels as well as the tension within the scene.

Beginning around 00:47, as Joel’s character suddenly becomes overcome with the realization that Clementine has found a new lover, his confusion is mirrored through an almost tangible curtain that draws itself between Joel and his surroundings.  The movement of the camera grows slightly more hectic, making the background seem blurrier, and the white noise of the background (people talking, moving around, etc.) becomes increasingly indiscernible yet more pronounced in terms of volume.  Joel’s breathing grows heavy as his disconnect with his surroundings grows – and here, the most profound piece of editing takes place as Joel simultaneously walks out of the bookstore and into his friends’ living room.  While this occurs, the lighting of the bookstore changes, each level of the ceiling lights turning off following the movement of Joel out of the room: in my opinion, one of the most creative transitions I’ve ever seen in a film.  This transcends the typical cross-cutting method, and the sudden shift between past and present also illuminates the dream-like quality of the film, distorting and warping the audience’s sense of time.

The scene as a whole maintains a certain stream of consciousness – emphasizing the intertwined threads of Joel’s reality and his confusion with it, punctured with images of the past: a dynamic that is used throughout the entirety of the film, giving it an undeniably dream-like vibe.  The experimentation with the editing of color and lighting also magnifies this almost surrealistic essence of the film.  Clementine’s vivid hair – which changes throughout the film – not only adds to the overall visual effect of the film but reflects the state of the relationship between Joel and Clementine.  In this scene, her hair is blue, representing the opposite of passion and life.


7 thoughts on “Week 7 Assignment.

  1. This was a perfect scene to choose for editing. I have never seen this movie but after watching this clip I intend to. I love how the scene begins with him telling the story and at the same time we get to see him experience what he is explaining. It gives us more insight into what he’s thinking while also giving the audience the feeling that they are observing. Also, the part where he walks from the library into his friend’s living room is very unique but a powerful element. It could be seen as a metaphor for how easy he thought it was for Clementine to walk out of his life. The lighting when he reads the letter stating that his ex-lover has no idea who he is plays an important part as well as it really focuses on his reaction to this information. The shots and cuts in this scene are what make it so powerful and memorable.

  2. I’m so glad you wrote about this movie! I considered it when I was thinking of what to write about. My favourite scene from the movie is when Joel tries to erase Clementine and he ends up merging his memories of her with his memories of childhood http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6587Hx2gR0 – It was really beautiful.

    Anyway, I love how you said “This transcends the typical cross-cutting method, and the sudden shift between past and present also illuminates the dream-like quality of the film, distorting and warping the audience’s sense of time,” because I couldn’t have worded it better myself; that’s exactly what the editing does, and it is phenomenal, and it occurs many times throughout the film, especially in the clip I linked—it’s similar to inception.. it’s like a memory within a memory.. Joel is asleep somewhere remembering Clementine on the couch and then that memory merges into a second memory—of when he was a baby in the kitchen. Very powerful editing.

  3. This is definitely a great movie to use as an example of skillful and interesting editing. The way that the past is contrasted with the present and the unknown timing of all the events really makes the viewer question which events happened within what time frame. Also, the fluidity of the stream definitely helps with his narration to make it seem like a stream of consciousness when in reality is memories and flashbacks and not just current events that are happening. The way that he relays the actions from the past and then you see them happening really gives the viewer insight into what’s happening in his memory and helps the viewer to see his perspective. The cuts also create a little bit of confusion and chaos and add to the dream like state of the recap of events. It is definitely made obvious to the viewers that there is some sort of emotional disconnect going on with the main characters.

  4. This is my first time hearing of this movie, but that scene where he walks from the store into his living room was amazing. It drew like a connection between his thoughts to this reality as he was remembering the events of earlier in time. The camera is also a bit shaky as it follows Jim Carry around, and as you mention, there is subtle background changes as he goes through different moods and realizations. The young man in the bookstore was also never seen properly, which editing and filming in a certain way creates the unimportance of his face and more of a focus on Kate Winslet as she acts out her role. I believe this was perfect, so not to distract from the two character scene that the editing sets up. Then slowly, she also leaves the focus and the editing completely focuses on his emotions. This can signify that he is now alone and he walks back into this apartment (reality).

  5. I have never seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, nor have I even heard of it. After watching that short clip, I am extremely interesting in watching the full film. The entire clip is very intriguing from the story line to the cutting, framing, and music (just everything really). Movies that use flashbacks tend to use this cross- cutting technique. In this film it is put into play seamlessly. Even though I have not seen the film in it’s entirety, from those few minutes alone I gain a wealth of information regarding what is going on. The cross- cutting really keeps the spectators informed and aware. Playing with the lights as the flashback begins to commence, leaving us with Joel in his own home with his mother and father creates an amazing scene for the viewers. As it darkens it almost looks like he is going into a black hole (which is appears as if he felt that his life is headed that way). It also contained plenty of short shots, portraying a sense of urgency and chaos.

  6. One of my favorite movies by far! I absolutely love how this scene came out. I think this is one of the best movie transitions ever made. it acts as a beautiful mesh between present and the past yet it manipulates the and plays with the passage of time and when things are actually happening. The non-linearization of this story goes hand in hand with what the the story is trying to tell it is a film about trying to retrace what ever memories that joel has left of his darling Clementine (no pun intended).

    The editing used in this scene is marvelous and is seen as very realistic despite its whole surrealistic motion from present to past by stepping through the door. It is amazing how the film maker actually made this scene into fruition it is magic man….
    I am also in love with this scene that also plays with past and present it is absoluty beautiful and the cuts between past and present create a beauty.

  7. The cross cutting technique in this scene really helps the audience to experience what Joel is going through and makes his emotions more believable. If this scene had just shown Joel telling the story to his friends it would have been rather boring and we wouldn’t have gotten a sense of what exactly happened. The lights turning off as he left the library symbolized his disappointment and sadness at his current situation. The way he walked right out of the bookstore and into the living room was a brilliant editing technique and was the part that stood out the most in this scene. It was interesting that you pointed out the background effects and that it became blurrier and the noise was louder because it was something I never noticed when I first watched the scene. This effect adds to Joel’s disappointment and confusion and from his deep breathing we get a sense of his panic.

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