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Commentaries on this Media!


by Critical Commons Manager


In response to "Playing with Space & Time"

by Spencer Boyle

Lorien Hunter beautifully and astutely points out the temporal and spatial inconsistencies in the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."  The filmmaker uses voice over from the “real world” to invade the world inside of Joel Barish’s head.  He uses a falling car to point out the unpredictable nature of this other world.  Advertisements disappear, time reverses, scenes morph into each other, the world inside Joel’s mind is quite liberal with both temporal and spatial realities.  That is all expertly discussed by Hunter, but one additional aspect of spacio-temporal flexibility I’d like to posit is witnessed within Joel’s dialogue.

The audience is transplanted inside the memory of Clementine and Joel breaking up.  The scene starts as Joel’s memory but quickly turns into another, alternate reality as Joel becomes self aware.   In the memory, Joel tries to coax Clementine back into the car.  “Clem let me drive you home,” he says.  She retorts with, “Get out of my face, faggot.”  A car then falls from the sky, and, as Hunter writes, this “distinguishes the sequence as occurring outside ‘reality.”  This not only distinguishes this for the audience, but for Joel as well.  Joel recognizes that this is a memory that is being erased.  He says, “Look at it out here, it’s all falling apart.  I’m erasing you, and I’m happy.”  As he says this, he ceases being the Joel from his memory.  He becomes a Joel occurring in another reality in real time.  This type of subtle movement between Joel as a memory and Joel as a character of agency occurs throughout the film and helps add another layer of spacio-temporal flexibility in an exceedingly complex and clever film.        

-Spencer Boyle

Playing with Space & Time

by Lorien Hunter

As noted by William Uricchio in his article Technologies of Time (, film has long had the ability to expand our understanding of spatial and temporal reality.  In this clip from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) this spacio-temporal flexibility is augmented through the use of dreams and memory, and by allowing the lines to blur between the filmic dream and real worlds.

 The clip begins with the audience rooted firmly in the film’s “real” world, and we listen as Patrick (Elijah Wood) and Stan (Mark Ruffalo) drink beer and discuss their girlfriends in Joel Barish’s living room (played by Jim Carrey) while he lies asleep on the couch.  Suddenly, the setting changes and we are now in Joel’s dream world where we watch as he travels through several different memories involving his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) and their failed relationship. Although there are several instances of spatial and temporal inconsistencies within the dream itself such as the shifting location of the car (thus distinguishing the sequence as occurring outside “reality” and signaling to the viewer the events being seen are a dream), the dream sequence is still, initially, kept entirely distinct from the film reality.  However, by allowing the voices of Patrick and Stan to bleed into Joel’s dream world, distinctions between Joel’s dream and real worlds become muddled.  Although we continue to follow Joel through his dream space, we are simultaneously aware of the “real” space he also occupies simultaneously back in his living room asleep on the couch.  This awareness is further augmented through the subsequent flashes back and forth between the real and dream worlds, where Joel’s dreams continue to be invaded by the ongoing real world conversation Stan and Patrick engage in back at the apartment.  In doing so, time and space is employed once again to expand the awareness of the viewer beyond what is happening at that moment on the screen.     

Response to "Playing with Space & Time"

by Chris Pratola

              Thats the great the great part about movies. We can be transformed into this dream and lose all sense of time and space. We are used to it. We are constantly doing this without dream sequences where we are stretching time with jump cuts, etc to move the story along or get the pace going. We also slow down time a lot these days with all the slow motion fight scenes and all that. (Even though there are none in this film) Its interesting because these two worlds seem to merge during the film, and you can't tell whether its a dream or if its reality, or just a hyper reality. I recently read an article on if you don't get very much sleep and stay up for long periods of time consistently, your brain starts to shut down without you knowing it, and begins to dream while you are still awake. I have never heard of this happenng to anyone, but I would image it would be something like this. Again, we are always more interested in the mind, and what goes on in that state than I think anything else. A great choice to tell a lot of the story through dreams, because I feel that entire movie is really just a retelling of a story that has only bits and pieces of it, and it connects the dots through the dreams and images he has. 


Eternal Sunshine reality slippage

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Reality and memory become indistinguishable

from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Creator: Michel Gondry
Posted by Critical Commons Manager