Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

He Likes to Get Inside Your Head

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

He Likes to Get Inside Your Head

Article excerpt

As research for his new film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," screenwriter Charlie Kaufman recorded a dinner conversation with his wife. The next day, each of them separately wrote about the evening. "Our notes were completely different from each other's," says Kaufman, "and the tape was completely different from both of us. And that was just the night before."

It led him to some conclusions about the way memory, or at least his memory, works.

"It's not a video playback, as you instinctively think it is," Kaufman says, speaking by phone from Pasadena, Calif., in long, loopy sentences. "It's very hard for me to reconstruct a conversation I had with someone yesterday as dialogue. I can't do it. And you interact with your memory. You comment on it as you're remembering it.... And that allowed me to come up with the way [the main character] is able to interact with his memory."

Creative and romantic frustrations were intertwined in Kaufman's last film, "Adaptation," and "Eternal Sunshine" follows suit. The film, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as an ill-fated pair who have erased each other from their memories, opens Friday. The script was inspired by a conceptual art piece by Pierre Bismuth, a friend of director Michel Gondry, in which a card is sent to someone saying he or she has been erased from the sender's memory. "Using this conceit of memory erasing to tell the story of a relationship intrigued me," says Kaufman. Once the procedure starts, though, each image of Clementine (Winslet) presented for erasure makes Joel (Carrey) fall in love with her all over again. He fights back by sneaking her away into parts of his memory where she doesn't belong.

The clients wear a metal helmet for the memory-erasing procedure, which takes place at Lacuna Inc. in Rockville Centre on Long Island (where Kaufman went to summer camp as a boy). "We wanted [the procedure] to be as realistic, mundane, and anonymous as possible," Kaufman says. "We didn't want big futuristic machines."

Unlike the abstract titles "Human Nature" and "Adaptation," Kaufman chose a romantic title for his latest movie, a line from poet Alexander Pope. …

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