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Christian Rooney Descriptive Analysis Essay

“How happy is the blamelessvestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotlessmind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd.” (Pope). Thus Alexander Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard” both names and defines Michel Gondry’s brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The film explores the subject of love and the roles memory plays in the experience of love. Joel takes revenge on his girlfriend Clementine after she has her memories of him erased by erasing his own memories of her. Gondry uses shot-reverse shot, shot distance, diegetic sound, light, panning shots, and Classical Hollywood style to throw the audience into Joel’s frantic, desperate dream world, in order to convey Joel’s emotions, actions, and memory loss. Gondry usesseveral techniques to give the audience a senseof the emotions Joel experiences throughout the segment. For example, the use of shot-reverse shots in the first setting, which Bordwell and Thompson define as “a shot from one axis of a 180 degree line to the other,” show Joel and Clem underneath the blanket reliving a story from Clem’s youth (Bordwell 235). The shot establishes a 180-degree line from Clem’s face to Joel’s face, cutting the shot back and forth between them. This creates the effect of being underneath that blanket as one or the other of the two characters, experiencing the nostalgia of the story. Gondry creates this effect to illustrate to the audience that the nostalgia of good memories outweighs the detriment of retaining painful ones. This realization compels Joel to act the way he does throughout the


remainder of the scene, and Gondry needs to compel the audience to want to follow him. To emphasize the frenzy of Joel’s movement from memory to memory, Gondry utilizes long distance shots and panning to immerse the audience in Joel’s desperate searching for a hidden corner in his memories. As Joel drags Clem over the frozen lake and through the train station, the distance of the shots suddenly explodes. Gondry uses this type of shot simply to emphasize the feeling of Joel having almost nowhere to hide, as if the device destroying his memories has the same field of view as the long-distance camera. Also when Joel enters a room- the doctor’s office, for example- the camera cuts to a medium shot which promptly pans around the room, as if it the camera is another person following Joel through his labyrinth of memories. Gondry wants to emerge the audience into the action but at the same time give it the perspective of both Joel and the memory device, to emphasize the futility of Joel’s actions. Almost regardless of what he does, the destruction of his memories remains unstoppable. To create the memory loss effect of the scene Gondry usesunconventional diegetic sound and light, and contrasts it against classical Hollywood style. For example, after Joel kissesClem underneath the blanket, a sound reminiscent of the Doppler “wave” effect fades into the scene, and immediately that particular memory begins to fade from Joel’s mind. It sounds mechanical, and I believe with this effect Gondry tries to accentuate the unnaturalness of the procedure Joel undertakes in the film. Gondry also useslight to accentuate the dreaminessof the state Joel lies in, by using spotlights to show a loss of peripheral memory from each fragment of the relationship that eventually leads to the loss of the entire memory. This is particularly


important becauseGondry then usesclassical Hollywood editing, which according to Michael Goldberg of the University of Washington is to make the cut invisible, to contrast the difference between damaged and undamaged memories (Goldberg). For example, in the last shot of the scene, the light and diegetic sound is fairly normal, with Clem and Joel usually in the middle of the scene and the editing does not draw attention away from the characters. Gondry usesthe contrast between unfamiliar and familiar editing, sound and light to accentuate to the audience the relief Joel and Clem feel whenever they find an untouched memory. Gondry usesthese effects in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to make a “nostalgia� point to his audience. He simply plugs how Joel values wonderful memories of Clementine, and extrapolates them to the audience. He wants us to value our memories, becauseaccording to Gondry, the existence of a few wonderful memories justifies the existence of a few that are painful. Our life experiences mold us, and we should fight to hold onto them.


Works Cited Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, The, 2008. Goldberg, Michael. "Classical Hollywood Cinema." UW Faculty Web Server. 12 Feb. 2009 <http://faculty.washington.edu/mlg/courses/definitions/classicalHollywoodcinema .html>. Pope, Alexander. "Eloisa to Abelard." The Monadnock Press. 12 Feb. 2009 <http://www.monadnock.net/poems/eloisa.html>.


Film Studies Essay