We've been superfans of The Film Experience for years (thank you, Nathaniel, for introducing us to the term "actressexual"). So now that our own blog is up and running, we're thrilled to finally participate in the TFE series Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in which the film blog masses share their favorite shots from selected movies.
Conveniently for us, the first movie this time 'round is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (our defining film of the 2000s). So here and now, in the middle of our week-long celebration of its 10-year anniversary, let's give thanks for the visual richness that helps make Eternal Sunshine the surrealist/realist work of art that it is.
A visionary film like this offers so many possibilities; we cannot and will not mention only one shot. So first let's take a look at an honorable mention. At the end of Joel's procedure, which technically speaking is brain damage, he's leaving the house on the beach, and with it the last traces of Clementine.
Although seemingly resigned at this point to Clementine's impending erasure, dream Joel and Clem make a last-ditch effort to lodge her in his brain. As the house crumbles around them, they embrace and she whispers "Meet me in Montauk." Montauk, where the land meets the sea. Montauk, where the Long Island Rail Road ends. Montauk, where the beaches are deserted and bare and all that matters is you and the person you're with.
Our next honorable mention is more well known:
The perfect marriage of action, physicality, art, and emotion, when Clem is swept away she's replaced by a pit in our stomach. The image lays bare the loss we feel when loved ones pass or relationships end. The image primes us for Joel's desperation moments later, when he calls for the procedure to end.
A breakup hurts, yes, but to sweep it all away hurts more. There's a Portuguese word, saudade, that linguists call untranslateable, but that signifies in part the feeling of intense loss and longing accompanied by fondness for the the object of that loss and the time you shared. To feel saudade is to feel pain, but to not feel saudade is to never have lived.
And without further ado, our selection for best shot:
Because it comes at the end of the film, encouraging us to feel and reflect on what we've just witnessed.
Because it encapsulates the cyclical nature of relationships and allows us to interpret the film as we will. For the optimist: Joel and Clem will always find each other, they'll work through their issues, their love will endure. For the pessimist: Joel and Clem will keep finding each other and embarking on a variation of the same poisonous relationship--just as we tend to be attracted to the same types over and over, regardless of how unhealthy for us they may be.
Beacause Montauk (see above).
Because it beautifully expresses the nature of memory, and the wonder of rediscovering someone or something distantly remembered--a point on the barren landscape of the mind.