Mar 18, 2014
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Rest assured that it is not for sheer laziness that my selection for the best shot of Michel Gondry's indelible masterpiece, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is the film's most famous one. So memorable was this frame that the distributors recognized its brilliance early on and used it as the film's poster. In the years since, it has become one of the most iconic images in film history; but familiarity isn't the only reason I cherish this moment most. Frequently, and paradoxically, the mark of a great film, or a personal favorite, is how much of it I don't remember, not how much I do. Perhaps it is because of the ability to surprise, to create the same genuine sense of wonder that I experience the first time I encounter these films on the screen.
Eternal Sunshine, in its entirety, and this shot specifically, exhibit that quality. They reveal whole new facets and redefine themselves in ways we never thought of before. The experience of watching the film isn't wholly dissimilar to that of Joel as he walks back and forth on a street that disappears on him bit by bit, plunging his memory into darkness. In the end, he and Clementine choose to rebuild the memories and rediscover the spark of the past; and so do I, with a film I have seen countless times, only to let it take over me, fill me with joy, bring me to tears and enchant me all over again.
When the shot above arrived, I was baffled to notice that I had completely forgotten about the cracks on the ice. How delicate and meaningful a touch! And yet, all I remembered was the two lovers wistfully staring at the stars. It is really that fracture though that instills this shot with so much emotion. Is it a sign that the foundation on which their love rests is beginning to crumble? Knowing what we know by the story's end, does its placement signify their past relationship or the future one? Is it a symbol of their doubts as they begin a new chapter or is it an indication to the audience, unbeknownst to them, that things will fall apart again? Did Joel and Clementine know that it was so close to them? Or is the fracture just their broken hearts materialized in physical form? Is it any surprise that a film filled to the brim with magical moments such as this continues to enthrall?
*Other entries for this episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot can be found here.