In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stresses the importance of memory and how memories shape a person’s identity. Stories such as “In Search of Lost Time” by Proust and a report by the President’s Council on Bioethics called “Beyond Therapy” support the claims made in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) meet on a train to Montauk, New York, where they instantly become drawn to each other. They don’t know it at the time, but Joel and Clementine use to be in a relationship lasted two years and ended with heartbreak. Clementine, who is naturally spontaneous, hires a company called Lacuna Inc., and they specialize in erasing people memories. When Joel discovers that Clementine has erased him from her memories and has no idea who he is, he decides to do the same to her. The process happens when you are asleep, and the majority of the film is based in Joel’s own mind. We see his memories being erased one by one, from the end of the relationship to the beginning. Once Joel experiences a good memory with Clementine, he finds he doesn’t want to continue the procedure, but there is no way to stop it. Throughout the film he tries to preserve at least one memory of her, but he isn’t able to. The last memory of Clementine tells Joel to “Meet me in Montauk” (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
In a separate story arc Patrick, one of Lacuna’s technicians, is dating Clementine and using Joel’s memories and words to seduce her. Mary, another Lacuna employee, discovers that she also had her memories of an affair with Dr. Howard Mierzwiak erased. This leads to Mary sending all the company’s records to the clients. When Joel and Clementine discover what they did they are shocked and confused, but decide to attempt a new relationship anyway, even though their previous one ended badly. (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
In “In Search of Lost Time” Proust illustrates the difference between involuntary and voluntary memories. Proust talks about when he tries to remember Combray, his hometown, he can’t remember anything but the house he used to live in. Proust calls this voluntary memory, he is trying to remember therefore he can only remember the things he constantly did in his house. He has an involuntary memory, which is triggered by dipping a madeleine cookie into his tea. Once he tastes the cookie, he remembers eating the same type cookie with his aunt, then he remembers his aunt’s house, and then from there he is able to remember more and more of the town he grew up in. Proust suggests that memories are hidden until an object triggers you to remember, and that newer memories are easier to recall than older ones. He also talks about a spotlight on your memory, it highlights only one thing and you are unable to recall anything that isn’t in the light. (Proust 58-64)
Proust and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind both suggest...