ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Region 2 Edition
Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst
Boy meets girl. They fall in love. There's
an acrimonious parting. Girl has boy wiped from her memory using a revolutionary
mind-erasing technique. It's a story as old as the movies themselves!
Part exquisite romance, as heartbreaking as
anything committed to celluloid, and part Philip K. Dick-style science
fiction drama, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a quixotic,
The film hooks the viewer immediately with a
charming blossoming romance between the two leads (Carrey, remarkably -
but not totally - restrained, and Winslet, compelling). Then it puts the
characters the audience has come to love through hell. It's a film about
love triumphing through adversity, but there are no easy solutions: Joel and
Clementine's relationship seems as fragile at the end of the film as it
was tentative at the beginning.
Focus Features' presentation of Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind reflects the film's modest budget
(estimated to be about $20m). The film's cinematography (by Ellen Kuras) relies a
great deal on hand-held camera work, and often uses a single light source
for effect (notably in the scenes where Joel and Clementine are being chased by
the searing spotlight of Doctor Mierzewiak's mind-erasing technique).
The film stock struggles with the low-level lighting conditions, often
becoming quite grainy. In some shots areas that should be black are
contaminated with blue (a photochemical developing fault). The frequently
results in an image that's coarse-looking. If this isn't a deliberate
choice on the part of the filmmakers, it was probably considered a
tolerable by-product of being able to work with naturalistic lighting.
The film's transfer to disc is
unremarkable. It often looks very nice indeed, but there are patches where
it looks rather dull and lifeless. There are no distracting coding
artefacts (except one very disruptive glitch at 37'08", which has
apparently been fixed for the final pressing). The transfer copes well
with a wide variety of moods and tones. The film is presented in its
original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, with anamorphic enhancement.
The film's audio mix is sublime. The sound
is often used to help the viewer orientate between what's real, and what's
taking place in Joel's head, using subtle and sometimes not-so subtle
sound manipulation. Jon Brion's quirky score is the perfect accompaniment
to the film, often acting as a vivid counterpoint to what's going on
on-screen. The disc offers a choice of DTS (754kbps) and Dolby Digital 5.1
tracks. Both are fine, although the DTS track undoubtedly has the edge for
scenes with a delicate ambience, and has marginally better separation (the
split between the centre speaker dialogue and Brion's score, from the side
speakers, is often very demanding, and the DTS track is definitely
preferable). Much of the film is weighted to the front speakers, but the
mix comes alive for the scenes inside Joel's head, where there are plenty
of embellishments that utilise the rear speakers. It's a very effective
mix, that serves the film perfectly.
Unfortunately the DTS track features two
brief audio holes (at 32'11" and 85'12", on the "find" in "I'm gonna go
find the bedroom"). Focus Features are
apparently unwilling to fix these, claiming that the audio is "director
approved". These audio dropouts aren't present on the Dolby Digital track,
so they're obviously not intentional. Momentum would like to point out
that they would have fixed these problems if they had been able to - the
are simply distributing the disc on behalf of Focus Features.
The film is supported by English subtitles
(albeit American ones, with spellings like "favor" and "honors"), but there are no
subtitles for the bonus features.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
The disc features a good selection of bonus
materials - certainly as much as you could reasonably ask for from a
Fans of the film will find the commentary
track, with director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman,
fascinating. Gondry has a heavy French accent, so it's easy to
differentiate between the two speakers.
They freely acknowledge that the film is
difficult to unravel the first time you see it, since there are so many
small details that only really make sense once you know what's happening.
It's likely that many people will want to watch the film more than once,
and the filmmakers admit that this may have artificially inflated the
film's box office takings (that is they were high, relative to the actual
number of people who saw the film).
The filmmakers explain about the clever idea that
inspired the film (it began with the idea of receiving a courtesy card
through the post that said that someone had erased you from their memory),
and also reveal that many individual incidents in the film, particularly
the relationship break-up scenes, were inspired by their own real life
The film has many remarkable sequences (the
one at Grand Central Station, for example, the location of the equally
magical ballroom sequence in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King), but
there's often not enough time to explain how they were created. Later
there are patches of silence, which is frustrating, because there are so
many questions an enquiring mind would like answered.
A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind (11m) is a nicely-made promotional featurette ("In
Theatres March 19"), featuring sound-bite interviews with the principal
cast and crew members, and a fair bit of behind-the-scenes footage.
Despite its brevity, there are some interesting moments. Kate Winslet
makes an interesting point: that she's reversed roles with Carrey (Carrey
usually plays larger-than-life, energetic, outgoing roles, and Winslet
usually plays laced-up (period drama) parts).
A Conversation with Jim Carrey and
Director Michel Gondry (15m). The nondescript title doesn't do justice
to what is a very nice featurette, which includes a frank and free-flowing
chat between the film's director and its star, who clearly have a rapport.
It's inter-cut with behind-the-scenes footage, including material shot on the
kitchen set, which shows how forced perspective was used to create the
illusion of a child-sized adult Joel. They chat, too, about the scene with
the elephants, which was staged at the drop of the hat, when they
discovered that the circus was being paraded through the streets near
where they were shooting. There are some precious glimpses of Carrey and Winslet rehearsing: it would have been very nice to see more of that.
There's a minor picture break-up fifty-seven seconds into this featurette, and a couple of
other glitches in the source material, but they're fleeting, and not at
Deleted Scenes (7m) No context is
given for these scenes, not even a chapter list (they play back-to-back, even though each
scene has its own chapter mark). The scenes are: Joel and Clementine
sneaking into a theatre; Doctor Mierzwiak recording Joel's description of
how he met Clementine; a sequence when Joel phones his ex, Naomi (Moonlight
Mile's Ellen Pompeo); and a scene where Joel and Clementine are
larking around on the bed (which features a nice in-camera "disappearing"
trick). A couple of deleted scenes discussed in the commentary - love
scenes between Joel and Clementine, and between Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and
Mary (Kirsten Dunst) - aren't included, sadly.
Picture quality is fine. The deleted scenes
are presented in non-anamorphic letterbox format, with timecode. However,
they're flagged on the disc as being anamorphic, which means if you play
them back on equipment that switches automatically (a 16:9 TV set
connected by scart cable, or a PC, for example), they'll appear
horizontally-stretched. Focus Features, the disc's producers know there's a problem, but
won't be fixing it:
the feature aspect ratio is displayed on the back. DVD Extras can come in
any aspect ratio. Hopefully the viewer will either address the
squashed picture by resizing their screen or as
often or not...they won't even notice".
Polyphonic Spree "Light and Day" Music
Video (3m) - a bouncy music video which uses clips (and outtakes) from
the film. The characters in the clips have singing mouths superimposed
over their real mouths, similar to those creepy talking infant
commercials. It's a nice addition to the disc, although the analogue tape
dropout that's present is another sign that the disc's producers weren't
Lacuna Commercial (1m) - this is the
full version of the Lacuna advert, briefly seen in the film: "Remember, with Lacuna, you can forget!"
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
is a wonderful film that will undoubtedly strike a chord with anyone
who's loved and lost. It's a film that demands to be watched
more than once, if the viewer is to wring every nuance of detail from Kaufman's complex story
and Gondry's quirky direction.
The technical presentation of the disc is
adequate, reflecting the film's low-budget origins, and the
often-difficult filming conditions.
The two DTS audio dropouts and the flagging
problem on the Deleted Scenes are irksome, and may be enough to
make some potential customers consider buying a version of the film from
another territory (the UK disc is coded for Region 2 only). The US version
is substantially similar (it features additional trailers for The
Motorcycle Diaries and Vanity Fair), and doesn't have the same