I remember......or is it déjà vu?

Harshita Gehlot

3 months ago|11 min read


Souvenirs, an effort to nurture any reminiscence, either it is cherished in euphoric nostalgia or an inevitable pain that you want to keep until someday it doesn’t reflect the same pain or even the memory of agony it left. One day it turns into an Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.  We are susceptible to subtly getting drawn more towards shocking and excruciating experiences and thus forming a firm memory, and journaling what good happened in your day or something that made a difference, such memories need to be retrieved to keep them existing in the memory journal of your mind. The sensation of remembrance will occur in every essence of your experiences. 

From a scientific explanation, humans have different parts in the brain or primarily two separate areas namely; ‘Hippocampus’ and ‘Amygdala’, the first one stores any memory in general like any factual and semantic, and the second stores emotionally associated memories like episodic memory which remembers any feeling, a smell aroused memory, etc. A person with damaged hippocampus activity might not be able to remember a phone number to be saved after a brief conversation, a person whom you said good morning and a few more words at your workplace. Memory is like another person in person who forms self of the person by memories throughout their lives. There is a propounded theory of ‘reconsolidation that explains that memory is rewritten each time based on the situation it is called, it’s like seeing changes in how much your best friend from childhood is grown.

"How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d"

The above quotation is an excerpt from  Eloisa to Abelard, a verse epistle of 1717 by  Alexander Pope. Interpretation of the same adheres to the lives of Abelard and Eloisa(the blameless vestal) committed to the monastery after tragic separation from continuing their affair and secret marriage, both vowed to a life aloof from materialistic, driven by emotion, preaching to a life of prayers and enlightenment. Away from contemplation and desires, they begin to leave behind the pain and regrets from memories made in their previous lived life, forget them(the world forgetting) and find happiness and tranquility in their new life as sole souls(the world forgot). They remain conscious in the light of the ‘eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’, like a child full of innocence discovering wonders of the world and finding pleasures in this knowledge without the subconscious realm of the role of those wonders becoming a mode of survival in the latter part of their lives energized by intriguing desires.

Abelard’s letters to Eloisa reawaken their forgotten suppressed passion and love for each other, but incompatibility in their men and women relationship bounds them until death reunites them. 

At least once in a while, we all wish to forget some or whole of pain, guilt, regret, or a memory attached with a person we want to forget, it can be the person themselves to be forgotten. Remove the spots blocking the eternal sunshine of the spotless. This unfeasible desire traps us, paralyzed to reach acceptance of these memories, after all, they make and change thyself. 

IF, and ONLY IF, there existed a painless method to erase the memories you want to forget completely that can’t be traced back even in fragments, would you do it without hesitation? Would you choose sanity and lone peace of mind over erasing a person from your memory with whom you experienced grief and loss, forgetting other emotional memories? Let’s decide after the following film synopsis.

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind

An eponymous title is taken from the above-given verse from the epistle "Eloisa to Abelard", underlines romantic sci-fi bases in the movie, in addition, comedy-drama, indie film, and art aesthetic that compliments the intricacies of the message from the movie being drafted in our mind as we proceed in the film, that appears like a time-loop. Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry have brought two clashing traited individuals, Joel Barish, played by Jim Carrey, a reserved guy with a mundane life according to him, takes a day off calling in his office of being sick by food poisoning and unusually, boards a train to Montauk where he observes and criticizes sand as 'overrated'. At a distance, while journaling, he observes a girl with blue hair and an orange sweater, and he continues to what his mind makes him wonder. He crosses paths with the same girl, and because of a recent breakup, he thinks to himself, “Why do I fall in love with every woman I see that shows me the least bit of attention?”


She approaches him impulsively and introduces herself as Clementine Kruczynski, played by Kate Winslet, on the train. She calls out Joel for not being aware of the jokes about her name, while Joel says ahead in their conversation, “I’m just trying to be nice…”, Clementine is characterized as a manic pixie girl, she initiates many times to make Joel talk more about himself, but Joel tries to maintain a boundary and make it seem that it’s his privacy time. The following night, Joel spots clementine and offers her a ride, he ends up having a drink at her apartment and an intimate conversation, from then on, their interest in each other builds up with exchanging numbers and a night picnic on a frozen lake.

"Clementine: My embarrassing admission is I really like that you're nice, right now."


Almost 20 minutes into the movie, with a jazz-like soundtrack of eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’s opening theme song while Joel is crying and driving his car, it may seem out of nowhere scene, but that’s the cinematography point of the middle part of the movie, showing scenes that play around with the twists in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind by twisting how the scenes are kept one after the other. It may appear to viewers that Joel is being plotted in an attack by two suspicious guys, and a whole different part of the story appears with no clue of what happened between him and clementine. Another different scene begins with Joel at his friend’s house discussing how he couldn’t reach Clementine and when he met her at her workplace, she behaved like she doesn’t know him and already got a new boyfriend. After an unclear fight between Joel’s friend Ron and his wife, Rob gives a card to Joel that tells Clementine has undergone a process that has erased Joel from her memories. 

"Clementine: My name is Clementine Kruczynski. I'm here to erase Joel Barish. He's boring. Is that enough reason to erase someone?"

Carrie: "She decided to erase you almost as a lark."

“What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger.”

 "Howard: ...Our files are confidential Mr. Barish so we can't show you any evidence. Suffice it to say, Miss Kruczynski was not happy and she wanted to move on. We provide that possibility…"

Joel decides to visit LACUNA INC, a small company that provides this possibility, doctor Howard confronts him saying he shouldn’t have seen the card and asks him to bring everything that reminds him of Clementine to bring to his clinic, and they will go through a mind mapping procedure and his assistants will erase his memories of her. After a lot of bashing and conflict, he takes this step, and techies at lacuna ask him to relive his memories and they mark the activated red dot displayed on the screen like an FMRI scan, those are neurons containing memories that will be removed painlessly. The memory-erasing procedure is to be done at Joel’s house at night for him to wake up the next morning without any remembrance of Clementine. Yes, in the earlier scene, those two guys came to administer the procedure on Joel with a silver helmet-like device similar to those hair steamers at hair salons. They begin erasing his memories while he is unconscious but he keeps going back and forth in memories and conversations happening in odd situations like hallucinations, as we see it happening, we ourselves feel our head spinning and mental tiredness trying to grasp connections between scenes.


In the whole of eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the relationship and all happy and bitter moments between Joel and clementine can be seen only from Joel’s kept memories which are themselves getting tangled with a confusing pattern of memories and what he happens to sense in his half-consciousness while the techies seek moments of pleasure at his house, he comes to realize how in all his memories, there was nothing without Clementine in it. He in his memories itself finds himself talking with doctor Howard and yells to stop this procedure, he no longer wants to erase Clementine, he wants to keep those memories even if they will give him pain. He is unable to do so, he feels paralyzed and numb, regretting. He finds himself in one of the memories with Clementine and starts hiding her in memories that aren’t being erased, on the monitor he begins to go off the map and tries to hide clementine in memories from his childhood, anywhere they go the place begins to crumble down. The techies soon find out and call the doctor and again gain control over him. They wrap up the procedure while Joel drives through his memory lane of vanishing. 

"Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?"

"Howard: Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it's on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you'll miss."

"Joel: Look at it out here, it's all falling apart. I'm erasing you and I'm happy!"


"Joel: Can you hear me? I don't want this any more! I want to call it off!"

"Joel: I can't remember anything without you."

"Clementine: Aw, that's... very sweet, but try."

"Joel: Mierzwiak! Please let me keep this memory, just this one."


"Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon."

"Joel: I know."

"Clementine: What do we do?"

"Joel: Enjoy it."

What looks like a jumbled time-loop, begins to make sense at the end with secrets associated with doctor Howard’s receptionist, Mary, her affair with the doctor and administered the procedure upon herself. The first opening scene of the movie and Joel and Clementine’s picnic to Charles, frozen lake was their second encounter like fated after they both had erased each other once. One who watches eternal sunshine of the spotless mind can connect scenes and presentation of scenes with Clementine’s hair color. However, the best out of the movie, what movie eternal sunshine of the spotless mind is about is enjoyed with more hidden detail and meticulous introduction of characters and their association by being clueless at the beginning and seeing it all link in the end.

"Mary: Blessed are forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."

"Clementine: Joely?"

"Clementine: What if you stayed this time?"

"Joel: I walked out the door. There's no memory left."

"Clementine: Come back and make up a good-bye at least. Let's pretend we had one."

"Clementine: Bye Joel."

"Joel: I love you."

"Clementine: Meet me in Montauk."


“We met at the wrong time. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Maybe one day years from now, we’ll meet in a coffee shop in a far away city somewhere and we could give it another shot.”

How far is memory-erasing at par with neuroscience bases?

Memories are not something that can be surgically removed, it happens as neuronal activity and synaptic connection form into clusters in the brain. Evident studies in mice have shown that by stopping protein synthesis, we can stop successful learning and remembering levels which will become a memory of learned behavior. However, no method or therapy can ever stop or interrupt the memory-making activity itself, it can manipulate a triggered memory but not all. That’s where psychology helps in coping with the painful memories one wants to forget, it may be learning and experience using that experience, correcting our mistakes, it may contribute to your values, ethics, and adaptation. Memory is a link between mind and brain.


A final draft of the message from Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Any individual might choose solitude, but some desires and longings can be best fulfilled through given and forming relationships. An attachment can change your view towards life as happening, it brings integrity. It can be from sharing and communicating what we think, each other’s past and plans for the future, in the movie, Joel seems to open up less with clementine about a locked away memory of the past, while clementine is always sharing about her and building understanding.   There might come times when those relationships will give you pain, sorrow, and regret, but it's just to make it strong and lasting, in any circumstance it’ll be in your memory.  Even if you end the ties in mind, ending at heart is another side of the bridge. A business relationship might end in profit or loss but it might give you a lesson for a lifetime. A wife, father, or friend would have thoughts to erase or forget a loved one lost to release themselves from pain but it’ll also take away other memories of fun, love, and care when needed to be remembered in their absence. Acceptance of it can be brought by forgiving rather than forgetting. 

"Clementine: You don't tell me things, Joel. I'm an open book. I tell you everything... every damn embarrassing thing. You don't trust me."

"Joel: Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating."

"Clementine: I don't do that. I want to know you."

"Clementine: I don't constantly talk! Jesus! People have to share things, Joel..."

"Joel: Mmmhhmmm..."

"Clementine: That's what intimacy is. I'm really pissed that you said that to me!"

"Joel: I'm sorry... I just, my life isn't that interesting."

"Clementine: I want to read some of those journals you're constantly scribbling in. What do you write in there if you don't have any thoughts or passions or... love?"

Nonetheless, the movie wouldn’t even exist in scripts if Michel Gondry wouldn’t be friends with Pierre Bismuth who is also credited as co-writer of the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, bismuth planned an art experiment to study the reaction of people by sending them cards which mentioned that they had been erased from the memory of someone they thought they knew. Gondry developed the story around this turned-down project with Charlie Kaufman, who wrote the script for it. A trivia of the movie, in the scene where Clementine invites Joel to her house and offers drinks, three Bollywood songs are heard in the background from Clementine’s stereo is “Mera man tera pyasa”, “Tere sand pyar main”, and “Wada na tod”, they are also listed in soundtrack credits. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind is available to watch on Amazon Prime and streaming websites. 

"From all the memories stored in my heart

I gather up the ones of you, link them together

Gazing at them projected across the room

I feel you with every burst of pain

You, in my imagination

Are so vivid

As if you are right there

But I reach out my hand

And you suddenly disappear"

Film Out, BTS


Harshita Gehlot

Hi, I'm Harshita Gehlot. Currently writing in flow and expanding the library of my knowledge.



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