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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

The memory erasing company, Lacuna Inc., takes its name from the Latin word meaning a cavity, hollow, or dip, especially a pool or pond. The idea was brought to Michel Gondry by his friend the artist Pierre Bismuth who suggested, “You get a card in the mail that says: someone you know has just erased you from their memory…”

The opening credits appear 18 minutes into the film, at the end of the first reel.
Based on the following quote from an Alexander Pope poem:



How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot !
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind !
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

Despite the fact that Charlie Kaufman’s script and Michel Gondry’s visual concepts were closely followed, the actors were allowed many chances to improvise. Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo improvised extensively, and much of the dialog between Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet resulted from videotaped rehearsal sessions during which the two actors became close by sharing tales of their real life relationships and heartbreaks.

The computer used during the procedure is actually an Amstrad PPC (Portable Personal Computer) from the early 1990s.

The scene where Joel and Clementine watch the circus go through the streets was made up on the spot, as the film crew and cast happened to be working nearby and Michel Gondry decided it could work well in the film. The part where Clementine disappears suddenly is one of Gondry’s favorite moments of the film, as Jim Carrey didn’t know Kate Winslet was going to disappear and Gondry likes it because Carrey’s face appears so saddened. When the sound blanks out in the final film, Carrey is actually saying “Kate?”

To help promote the film, a fully functional website was created for Lacuna purporting to provide memory erasure. The only giveaway is the link to watch Joel Barish “experience the procedure”, which links to the movie’s official site.

When Joel is in his head and is visiting his session of the erasing process, no special effects were used to show the two Joels in the one scene. Jim Carrey had to take off his hat and jacket when he was not in shot and had to quickly sit down in the chair and visa-versa when he has to stand up.

Virtually all of the most bizarre and fascinating scenes in this film were created with old fashioned camera, editing, lighting and prop/set tricks. The use of digital effects was very limited. The striking kitchen scene with Joel as a child was created with an elaborate forced perspective set-up similar to some used by Peter Jackson in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Reporters tried to interview Jim Carrey as the unplanned scene with Joel and Clementine at the street parade was being filmed. If you listen closely, you can hear somebody shout “Speak to me!” at Jim Carrey.

Initially throughout the train scene, the music was supposed to fill up the gap during the silence between Joel and Clem until writer Charlie Kaufman suggested to do the opposite. Music was then played when Joel and Clem talked and paused when they paused.

In the credits there appears the line “Leksell Sterotactic System courtesy of Electra Intstruments”; this is bizarre-looking head gear for brain surgery.

The audio for the scene in which Joel and Clementine appear as children in Joel’s memory while their adult voices converse was recorded on location, rather than dubbed later in a studio.

Director Michel Gondry felt it was better to have Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet reacting to the children playing their characters as it happened.

Unnoticed visual effects where used in the movie, that were not planned while shooting. In one shot Clem is walking on the street, while a car falls in the background. The whole background was replaced with a CG-background, including Clem’s other leg which disappeared, so the remaining leg was done with CGI. Another shot was the house Clem and Joel were breaking into, which collapses in a 4-second shot. All in the shot was done CG.

SPOILER: The original script featured a cut beginning and ending sequence that took place in the future. In the end, an older Clementine comes in to have the procedure done and a look at her screen shows that she’s had the procedure done multiple times and all of them involved Joel. At the very end of the script, an older Joel calls Clementine to ask why she hasn’t called, but the technicians performing the procedure erase his message. Other cuts in the original script include a montage of memories people wanted erased, including a soldier seeing his dead friend on a battlefield and a girl who was raped at a young age.

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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