Viewings | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | Week 11

Wednesday, April 17th 2019, 12:56:23 am

eternal sunshine cover art (via MovieTime Guru)

This week I (re)watched Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. I hadn’t seen it since its release in theaters (and maybe once after when it came out on DVD). Since then, I’ve changed a lot and so has my reaction to it. Though I thought it to be an interesting movie when it came out, what struck me about this viewing was how full of things I hadn’t noticed back then it was.

From the get go, the quasi-magical-realism concept of “what if there was a doctor that could erase some of your memories” that seemed absurdist in 2004, actually seems way closer to recent developments in neuroscience than the realm of pure fiction. For one, it reminded me of a study I heard about re: the curing of phobias using certain chemicals and behavioral therapies. In 2004, this kind of approach to the brain was treated as “fantasy”, whereas we know so much more in 2019 that makes Eternal Sunshine seem almost accidentally prescient.

As it pertains to design, the film also had an interesting amount of hardware that seemed anachronistic. The medical procedure of “forgetting” was full of clunky old computers with monochromatic user-interfaces of brain images that the characters had to interact with clicks and keystrokes in real time (most likely not the way such a procedure’s UIs would actually work if they existed). This lead to a really playful approach to techno-speculation. On the one hand, it was a forward thinking concept, but executed in a playfully low-tech way (even for its time, this stuff was low-tech).

Beyond this, I think the movie’s relationship representation also seemed a lot more nuanced than I remember it. Maybe that part could just be the amount of “living” I’ve done since it came out, though.

Omar Delarosa avatar

Written by Omar Delarosa who lives in Brooklyn and builds things using computers.

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