Happy 20th Birthday, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!

Yeah, you read that right. 20 years ago today--or tomorrow, depending on where you are--Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released. It remains Charlie's biggest commercial success, earned him his only Oscar so far (he was previously nominated for Malkovich and Adaptation, plus an Animated Feature nom for Anomalisa in 2015), and around the globe raked in other awards and accolades too numerous to mention. The WGA still ranks Eternal Sunshine as the #24 greatest screenplay of all time (#23 is Gone With the Wind, #25 is The Wizard of Oz; Malkovich is at #74, Adaptation #77). Wikipedia will tell you that the film has inspired songs, a video game, and Ariana Grande's latest album.

The film came out when social media was in its infancy, and dedicated fan sites--like the one you're at now--were still very much a thing. I remember communicating with webmasters from Kate Winslet websites, Jim Carrey sites, Elijah Wood sites... People were making oodles of fan art, poring over details in the film's trailer... Good times, good times.

ANYWAY. I'm not the only one aware of the film's 20th anniversary, because a few retrospectives have been popping up online.

Jane Steventon of The Conversation writes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at 20: an unflinching meditation on love and memory:

When writing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Charlie Kaufman could not have known about the seismic impact of social media in years to come. How we now lurk on our former lovers’ profiles, view their photos, analyse their posts and remove images – metaphorically wiping the slate clean and willingly deleting our past.

This relatable angst of ridding ourselves of past memories of heartbreak is the premise of director Michel Gondry’s masterpiece, which is 20 years old this week. (Source)

The BBC's Laura Martin tells us How Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind offered a warning about modern love and relationships:

A hit with both critics and the public alike, it grossed $74m at the box office, earned Kaufman, Gondry and their collaborator Pierre Bismuth an Oscar for best original screenplay, and in 2017 was named one of The New York Times's best films of the 21st Century. Two decades on from Eternal Sunshine's release, it's a mark of the film's emotional and intellectual brilliance that it's still in the public consciousness. Indeed, Ariana Grande's new album, released a couple of weeks ago, is called Eternal Sunshine in tribute to the film, with her video for new single We Can't Be Friends recreating scenes from it – something which may encourage a whole new Gen Z reappraisal.

The sentiment underscoring the film's high-concept – and which gave it its title – comes from the 1717 Alexander Pope poem Eloisa to Abelard, which is quoted by the Lacuna Inc worker, Mary (Kirsten Dunst) in the film. "How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!" the verse runs – which, boiled down, translates as "ignorance is bliss". However, the movie, through its compelling representation of the workings of the mind and the complex science of memory and dreams, depicted using Gondry's signature lo-fi creative aesthetic, proves that this idea is a fallacy.  (Source)

There's a Cultured Vulture piece called 5 Movies That Will Make You Feel Old in March 2024, and you'll never guess which one's at #4:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those rare films where all the parts came together to create movie magic. We have Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s excellent script, Gondry’s assured direction, as well as the talents of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in the leading roles. It is one of those films that honestly feels life-changing – there’s life before Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and then there’s life after.

[..] If you have ever experienced heartbreak, you will know how tempting it is to desire complete erasure, so you don’t have to hurt anymore. But what happens when you do? If we are the sum of our relationships, will the erasure of one change our lives for the better, or will it make things worse?

If you’ve never seen the movie, now’s the perfect time to do so. (Source)

Then for old times' sake, courtesy of Dazed, here's the latest in a very long line of could-we-one-day-selectively-erase-memories articles:

Just three years after the release of Eternal Sunshine, researchers found that injecting an ‘amnesia drug’ could take the emotional sting out of unpleasant memories. Then in 2009, a team at the University of Toronto succeeded in essentially selectively erasing memories in mice by injecting a toxin into the amygdala, the part of the brain which processes emotions. Since then, a number of different methods for manipulating memories have been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists across the world, such as inhaling xenon gas, taking propranolol, using lights, and playing sounds to people while they sleep. (Source)

There may be more Eternal anniversary articles in the next couple of weeks. Anything worthwhile crosses my radar, I'll let you know.


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