I just watched this for the first time and really liked it. It has had me thinking for the last few days, and I have been reading other’s thoughts and feelings about the film. I have not found a thread that really discussed the various symbolic images and concepts used throughout the film.
So, for those who enjoyed the movie, and especially for those who have watched it more than once and probably caught way more than I did with just one viewing, what images or concepts stuck with you? Any cool little secrets you have discovered that you want to let the rest of us in on?
Umm., well, watching the special features helps a lot, I say. This is my favorite movie. I’ve seen it five times, and I STILL don’t get everything that happens in it, but I’m okay with that. :)
It’s Charlie Kaufman’s masterpiece.
I still respect it for being so unrelenting in its dysthymia/depression. Likewise, I’m surprised it struck a chord with many people, but it definitely did with me. It’s so beautiful.
Brilliant film. I’ll just throw one idea out there to give a small part of the reason why I think so. Near the end of the movie we see Caden as an old man walking out on the streets where violence, lawlessness and death are everywhere. Which, to me, is a beautiful sort of analogy for some of the feelings associated with aging as the body becomes weak and vulnerable and people you care about start dying in increasing numbers. At a certain point a long life can seem like an apocalypse to some people, and Caden is exactly the kind of person who would focus on this aspect of it rather than anything more ennobling.
I wanted to like it. The first thirty minutes of the film had a nice energy but then it just dragged on and became so pointless and badly paced and tedious and needlessly depressing that I was just waiting for Charlie to put me out of my misery and end the film. Perhaps this was all deliberate as the film is some kind of metaphor for life itself but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t incredibly unpleasant to sit through (and not in a good way).
Yeah, definitely Charlie Kaufman’s best work, and I’d say it’s one of the best narrative films to have come out of Hollywood in the last decade.
i really don’t understand all the major love for Kaufman’s first directorial attempt, give me even his screenplay failures over that. there are merits and several psychological undertones or the whole vanity of life itself but other than that, it’s not a big deal.
I saw it at a time when major changes were taking place in my life and it struck me on a very base level. It still does, Kaufman is an artist who throws his persona at the screen without fear or vainity and this is a testament to his skill.
I watched it with the intention of disliking it and was blown away by it. I love it when things like that happen. It stands head and shoulders above other films of its ilk by people like Jonze and Gondry. The great cast helps Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, J J Leigh and Diane Wiest all in my list of favourite actresses and Phllip s Hoffman is just brilliant. Second only to Inland Empire as the best U.S film of the2000’s.
I watched this film a couple of weeks ago, it blew me away, I absolutely loved it, it had me in tears at various points the end especially and I didn’t even really know what was going on haha. A lot better than both being john malcovich and eternal sunshine I thought (and I love them), as has been said this is Kaufman’s Masterpiece. Philip S Hoffman is amazing in it as are everyone else, he’s really strangely identifying throughout the film sort of gets all weirdly about you (the viewer) in it’s way with dealing with identity, the way we perceive ourselves and death and whatnot. The visuals are amazing as is the Jon Brion score, the ideas! I do love humanist films like this, a lot, I’m really looking forward to watching it again.
I like that there was obvious symbolism used, yet at the same time the meaning was very obscured, or left up to the interpretation of the viewer.
The burning house, the obsession with disease and bodily function, putting things into boxes and/or walling them up, the tiny art, the tattoos, the war and end of the world on the outside.
We are all the lead in our own play, and extras in the plays of others…
I love 8 1/2 too. Didn’t know it was only one or the other.
What Ari, Dimitris and Doinel said sums up my response pretty well.
some of those lines tho are just so cutting, give me chills, examples:
“you realize no one is watching you and nobody ever was”
“can you please sit with me? okay, because I’m sad and lonely, and very tired.”
“All right, I’m not excusing myself from this either. I will have someone play me, to delve into the murky, cowardly depths of my lonely, fucked-up being. And he’ll get notes too, and those notes will correspond to the notes I truly receive every day from my god! Get to work! "
so many beautiful lines, maybe i’m just a depressive at heart (i’m not in a depression currently haha) but can ALWAYS relate to that type of thinking. it’s powerful stuff.
This film had the widest fluctuation for me – when I first saw it I gave it 4 stars, then moved it to 1, and now it has come to rest at 5. I liked it a lot at first, and then it started really annoying me when I heard people talk about it and I decided it was just weird for the sake of being weird, and then finally I decided that there wasn’t really anything wrong with that, and it did what it was supposed to do – make me sad… mostly the scenes with the daughter – especially when he finds the pink nose box thrown out in the trash and when she talks about the game where they’re both fairies and then they can never see each other again.
One minor complaint I have is that at the beginning there were kind of some jokes that I didn’t think really fit with the film and seemed to be written just so they could possibly be used in the trailer – especially the exchange with the doctor, which was used in the trailer. The end is great though!
Fraser-Orr wrote a brilliant review of it on his blog that’s worth reading unless you liked the film!
Why thank you Welshy. I strongly agree! :D
What Ari, Dimitris, Doinel, Mike Spence, and Fraser-Orr said sums up my response pretty well as well.
This film won’t age well – most will realize later on how inept it was.
Robert, as much as I admire you incisive eye and ability to sum up a film, I am also constantly taken aback by the films we differ on since there is some areas where I think we see things in a very similar way. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how time treats Caden, but I gotta say I think you’re wrong about this one.
You must like Deepa Mehta’s work – she makes the same mistake of saying too much and losing the cohesion of the film.
I already ran this one down on another thread, which I can’t find.
If I re-write Fraser’s review in the positive, you can see what is wrong with the film.
What’s seriously strange about this film is that, like Adaptation, it takes writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s ability to subjective-fy reality. Fortunately (and this is what many Kaufman fans realize) “strange” means the same thing as “good”.
It’s easy to get caught up with the simple distractions of the puzzle in the movie. Why is the house on fire? Who’s writing in the girls’ diary? What’s the deal with the therapist? You will be able to solve these puzzles yourself as Kaufman isn’t hiding some deep truth! Fortunately, there’s nothing there, and the puzzles are simple.
Caden is obsessed with trying to make a piece of art that’s true to reality, and so puts direct experiences of his life into the production. Caden’s direct experience is now watching the actors perform, so he then sets about putting that reality into the production.What we’re watching here is a screenwriter getting lost in his own thoughts. The film shows what this does (to Caden); it is unnecessary to get past these thoughts and into real interaction with others. Caden is justified for not truly interacting with many of the characters, as the majority of them act in bizarre, “quirky” ways that make real interaction impossible. Caden is given a valid reason for wanting to stay within his own head.
What’s so great about Synecdoche is that the answer to Kaufman’s problems is stunningly simple. Reality is always here in the present moment.
Where I disagree with you Robert, isn’t on the puzzles being complex or about what you say about reality and Caden, but on how I relate to the screenwriter in your scenario. My relation to Caden isn’t as an artist but as someone who believes that all people construct similar realities and faux-realities or identities for themselves and those multifaceted ways of seeing ourselves in the world is our reality. we can only understand the world through our flawed perceptions of it and, for me, Synecdoche captures both that aspect of people as well as the struggle we undergo to escape or understand our flawed visions and see things as they “really” are, which, of course, is an impossible contradiction that doubles back on itself in much the same way Caden’s multiple realities do. The individual pieces of his puzzle, or our puzzle if we want to ascribe a meaning to them may or may not be simple as pieces, the more complex part is trying to fit all those pieces into a understandable image. The pieces don’t all conform to one another so it seems like there isn’t a unified whole, but that seeming paradox also explains the unity of the whole. I concede that Kaufman hasn’t fully reached a cinematic vision to match his aim, there is still some crudeness in his direction that occasionally hurts the film, but the totality of his vision is something that isn’t achieved very often and that I have to applaud.
EDIT: Oh, and Deepa Mehta, I liked Earth but I wasn’t wild about it, and my liking of it was for almost the opposite reasons I admire Synecdoche. I do think this split explains some of our disagreement over Calendar though which is another film that “works” for me because of the way it doesn’t fit together in a normal sense. (As an aside, I really want to pick your brain on Silent Light sometime since my reaction to it is similar to yours on Werckmeister Harmonies.)
I re-wrote Fraser’s piece because whether you see it positively or negatively you are not seeing a good film. People are struggling with the “what” instead of the “how” of the film and for me, that is bad filmmaking. I was never able to realize the gestalt of the film – I didn’t have the aha! as I did with Denis’ L’ Intrus, Shepitko’s Wings, or Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation.
This is the “what” I would have liked to have seen in a way that produced an aha!:The individual pieces of his puzzle, or our puzzle if we want to ascribe a meaning to them may or may not be simple as pieces, the more complex part is trying to fit all those pieces into a understandable image. The pieces don’t all conform to one another so it seems like there isn’t a unified whole, but that seeming paradox also explains the unity of the whole.
So here is where we agree:…… Kaufman hasn’t fully reached a cinematic vision to match his aim, there is still some crudeness in his direction that occasionally hurts the film,….
Yes, I do lean more towards the New School type of thinking about criticism, where value is often found in irony and contradiction, as well as being more forgiving towards technical limitations on certain occasions. I do agree with you completely on Sheptiko’s Wings which is close to perfection in my book, (Assuming that’s what you meant by your statement.) and don’t disagree with your statement about Mutual Appreciation other than perhaps some small ways. Your emphasis on the gestalt is why I brought this up in the first place since I find quite a bit of value in that way of framing an artwork, but I often question its utility in regards to works that seem to require or ask the viewer to digest parts of a piece in differently weighted chunks in order to gain an appreciation of them, something like naive or folk art does in painting and sculpture. Certainly one needn’t take those works on different terms, but I find doing so can provide some powerful artistic experiences.
…..question its utility in regards to works that seem to require or ask the viewer to digest parts of a piece in differently weighted chunks in order to gain an appreciation of them, something like naive or folk art does in painting and sculpture.
Yes and where/why I probably don’t appreciate folk art as much.
I came to the gestalt by way of trying to understand visual thinking. The deception of visual perception is that one is seeing/realizing the totality of an object at once – that feeling I find gratifying, although I know that “realizing the totality” at once is simplistic.
Perhaps ‘writer – Kaufman’ was making a piece in differently weighted chunks.
The Kaufmans film is really awesome. The script is very well done. I really like this film!