Eternal Sunshine- “Meet me in Montauk”

Hizzah! Do you hear that? Yes that is the sound of success! I finally figured out how to post a video sweet baby Jesus. Alright, lets get on with it…

Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my absolute favorite films, as it is to many others. It takes us on a nonlinear trip down memory lane, literally, by following the memories that Joel (Jim Carrey) has of his former lover, Clementine (Kate Winslet). He decides to erase her from his memory, and as the procedure takes place while he sleeps, Joel revisits his relationship with Clementine from the last memory backwards, which allows him to see the better times.

(skip if you know this movie/part of the movie)
This clip is one of his first memories of Clementine, where she breaks into a house on the beach and sets up an exciting spontaneous adventure for her and Joel to embark on, however, he walks away. He is exploring this memory as it is being erased, and the ocean is flowing into the beach house that is falling apart, as if his memory is crumbling. Simultaneously, Joel faces his mistakes- fear kept him from the liveliness and happiness of their relationship. And so instead he attempts to recreate an alternative choice- if he at least said goodbye, things would be better…leaving him with the clue, “meet me in Montauk”…

The lighting for this scene is a really good example for “less is more”. To keep a real sense of the danger, spontaneity, and excitement of breaking an entry, Gondry plays with the darkness as opposed to the light. The characters are almost in a spotlight in contrast with the inky black night using flashlights/maglights to illuminate the actors. The room has somewhat of a blue tone, wreaking of regret, almost like a dreary sadness. The narrow circumference the maglights encompass give a very claustrophobic feel- tight as if we are in the confines of a surreal memory. But at the same time the flashlights put us in the abandoned house- in the moment- and we are experiencing the same feelings Joel is conflicted with in his encounter with this free-spirited woman. The lights shining on his face almost overexposing his features illustrates that at this moment, he is being put on the spot. He is faced with a choice of living on the edge, or running away from his fears, the unknown. The light is on him the entire time, and when she runs up the stairs she disappears because in his memory, he sees no more of her. She is gone and he walks out, but you hear her voice which is his conscience creating her presence. Joel is still in the spotlight as the memory casually crumbles, the light following his feet pacing around the snowy beach, reflecting on the black waves ashore flooding around him.

This is where Gondry plays with the presence of darkness- Joel’s face in shadows narrowly escaping the spotlight. The shadows and the dark corners of the house and fudgey black ocean represent some sort of abyss. The fact that the whole scene is in nearly complete darkness also eludes to the fact that his relationship with Clementine will lead to the unexpected, the spontaneous, the unknown. He wanders evading the confrontation and finally the spotlight wildly corners him into revealing to himself what he really felt at that moment. Regret. The use of darkness shapes the scene to feel like a surreal memory, and the use of minimal and amateur light illuminates the emotions Joel has, looking back and accepting his regret.

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