Great Scenes: "Meet Me in Montauk"

April 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This collaboration between Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry is a beautiful, poignant piece of work. Kaufman’s screenplay is nothing short of an incredible achievement; I don’t know how he does it, but he somehow manages to weave a story which is not only excruciatingly honest, funny and melancholic, but he also manages to make it complex, without it being made impenetrable.

Gondry also does his best work here – directing, as opposed to writing – cleverly using special effects in a way which is almost restrained (compared to his other works), while keeping the momentum of the film going at an energetic pace.

There are so many great moments in the movie which really stick with me. If someone were to ask me which I felt was the best scene, I don’t think I could possibly answer them – each part being so perfectly integrated into the film as a whole. Indeed, it’s only because of what’s gone before that the film’s dramatic apex holds such emotion for us. And, here, I am talking about Joel’s (Jim Carrey) last memory of Clementine (Kate Winslet) in the derelict house by the beach.

It’s a bitter/sweet scene: Joel’s last memory of Clementine is about to be erased; he knows it, and he is left resigned to that fact. The brilliance of the scene is down to the great writing of Kaufman and the visual prowess of Gondry. In the background of the scene, and in the audience’s mind, is the inevitability that it will all end soon – Clementine will be gone from Joel’s mind forever. The walls of that old abandoned house are, literally, crumbling in on Joel and Clementine’s relationship.

Yet, there is this sense of hope, against all odds, that they might somehow save their doomed relationship. In real-life, Joel ran out on Clementine (not the best memory to end on) and he regrets it badly. It is Clementine who suggests they make a new memory, where he stays – and so the possibility is left hanging for Joel and the audience, and we want to believe it, we really do. But you can’t change the past. We know this; Joel knows this. And so Joel, in the memory, runs away from the house, just as he did before in real-life, but not before Clementine whispers those four auspicious little words to him:

“Meet me in Montauk.”


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