February 9, 2010, Category: Movie Reviews

Synecdoche

synecdoche-ny-poster-big This movie put my head in a strange place. It started out normal enough, interesting and funny with a hint of despair. As it went on, it got harder to understand, downright confusing at times. There were scenes I found myself tired, wanting it to just get over already. But for its existentialistic theme, it was perfect.

I don’t think this type of show is for everyone. I would even bet most people will hate it. But for those of us who often see life through bland colored glasses, I think it makes some sense, teaches a few things, and even offers hope.

The movie was sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, often sardonic. At times it seemed to drag on way too long. Caden spends so much of his time trying to understand himself and figure out “why,” that he forgets to live. His efforts to make sense of his life are so extreme (he stages a grand play to reenact his entire life in an attempt to understand it) that it robs him of new experiences. He lives life by looking in the rear view mirror, searching for meaning and answers. And the answers are dismal; we are alone, there isn’t a higher purpose, and there isn’t rhyme or reason to our existence. But what else would you expect from this type of movie? The irony, however, is that these particular answers exist only because he wants more from life than living. When living isn’t enough, it’s a bitter road. Wanting more is either an insatiable and disappointing quest or a delusional existence.

(The next section has spoilers and harsh language in the movie quote)

In one scene, Caden’s  grown daughter wants an apology from him for something he did not do. She’s dying so he plays along. He confesses to her and apologizes for the things he never did. But she can’t accept his apology. This theme comes out multiple times, things we want (or think we want because we crave for them all our lives) won’t give us what we expect. We search for what we think will fix us…but the searching is the real problem, evidence of our insecurity and denial. There are no magic words to soothe our torment. If we can’t open our eyes and live in the now, we live in pain and sadness trying to make sense of the confusion that is our past. Perhaps if Caden could have celebrated his existentialist mindset and embraced the lack of answers even while he searched for them, things could have been different. Maybe in the end he accomplishes this (we faded to white instead of black). But how sad to find it at the very end of an existence.

I have never seen a movie with so many references to feces. Multiple scenes related to taking a dump, actual wiping of the arse, toilets. Life can be shit. His certainly was. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything different from one of the best presentations on existentialism I have ever seen. It really captures that mindset. The payoff is the speech given by the preacher, which hit my gut like a cannonball.

Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make; you can destroy your life any time you choose. But maybe you won’t know for twenty years. And you’ll never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce. And they say there is no fate, but there is: it’s what you create. Even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but doesn’t really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope for something good to come along. Something to make you feel connected, to make you feel whole, to make you feel loved. And the truth is I’m so angry and the truth is I’m so fucking sad, and the truth is I’ve been so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long have been pretending I’m ok, just to get along, just for, I don’t know why, maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own, and their own is too overwhelming to allow them to listen to or care about mine. Well, fuck everybody. Amen.

I consider myself a pretty dark person, my view of the world tends to be depressing. But I fall short of the preachers (Caden’s) extreme view. Lop off that last sentence and it resonates better with me, which I find comforting. That last sentence sums up Caden’s miserly, his downfall. It is him living in the past, not embracing the present and not reaching out to the people around him. I do better than Caden in that area, but I still fall way short of where I ought to be.

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