Internal Spotlight of the Shiny Camcorder

26 Mar 2004

Paul R. Potts

Grace and I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I can recommend it quite highly. Perhaps it isn’t the best film of the decade as some critics seem to be raving, but it does perhaps the best job of any film I’ve seen in recent years at presenting a consistent and unified vision.

I’d also give it the “best artistic use of a handheld camera” award. (We’re not talking Blair Witch Project, running-through-the-woods jerky camera work here). To me it has more of the look of a Dogma 95 film, but without the various restrictions on reorganizing time and space. It also wins my “best use of a disjointed, slightly unsettling soundtrack.”

It has some great acting as well, but the best acting in the film does not come from the stars, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. They are OK; if you’re frightened that this might be a typical Jim Carrey vehicle, fear not. Carrey is quite bearable here, even more so than in The Truman Show. Winslet is quite good. But some of the supporting cast manage that spooky Zen trick of disappearing entirely into their characters. Frodo also makes an appearance and does a pretty good job, although his role is rather small; I think he’s headed for a distinguished career.

Most reviews give away some of the key points, so I’d recommend seeing it before reading about it. There’s a related web site:, but I’d avoid it until you’ve seen the movie.

The story is told out of sequence, and it can take a while to figure out what is going on. I’m actually disappointed I knew something about the plot beforehand, because I didn’t get the pleasure of utter confusion, and I don’t know how quickly I would have figured it all out without any hints.

If you see it, try to keep in mind that it will all become clear, and that even the reason for the disjointed presentation will also become clear. It is really an excellent example of form following function in storytelling. If you go see it, I’d like to hear what you think.

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