Created by: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Produced by: Steve Golin, Anthony Bregman
Other cast: Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
Release date: March 19, 2004
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Running time: 108 minutes
A man, Joel Barish, heartbroken that his girlfriend Clementine underwent a procedure to erase him from her memory, decides to do the same. However, as he watches his memories of her fade away, he realizes that he still loves her, and may be too late to correct his mistake.
Initially, throughout the train scene, the music was supposed to fill up the gap during the silence between Joel and Clementine, until Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman suggested to do the opposite. Music was then played when Joel and Clementine talked, and paused when they paused.
Despite the fact that Charlie Kaufman’s script and Michel Gondry’s visual concepts were closely followed, the cast members were allowed many chances to improvise. Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo improvised extensively, and much of the dialogue between Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet resulted from videotaped rehearsal sessions, during which, the two became close by sharing tales of their real-life relationships and heartbreaks.
During the train scene, Kate Winslet punches Jim Carrey. This was not staged nor planned, and Carrey’s response is that of genuine surprise.
The scene where Joel and Clementine watch the circus go through the streets was made up on the spot, as the film crew and cast happened to be working nearby, and Director Michel Gondry decided it could work well in the film. The part where Clementine disappears suddenly, is one of Gondry’s favorite moments of the film, as Jim Carrey didn’t know Kate Winslet was going to disappear, and Gondry liked it because Carrey’s face appears so saddened. When the sound blanks out in the final film, Carrey is actually saying “Kate?”
Kate Winslet mentioned to Empire Magazine this was her own favorite performance.
Clementine’s hair goes through several color changes, blue, orange, red, green, and brown, which seems to be her natural hair color. This helps the viewer keep track of where her relationship with Joel corresponds to the plot.
Michel Gondry had a unique system of controlling his camera operators while shooting, by use of a headset for himself and earpieces for the two operators. He would speak to them (in French) while cameras were rolling and the actors were doing their parts, so Gondry could have a say on all angles no matter where the actors were. This resulted in a large degree of spontaneity, since the actors could decide while in character whether to have an entire conversation sitting on a couch or get up and walk to a window. Kate Winslet said that she felt this freedom enhanced her performance, and that sometimes they would do different takes of the same scene completely differently, based purely on gut feelings for what the characters might have done.
The audio for the scene in which Joel and Clementine appear as children in Joel’s memory, while their adult voices converse, was recorded on-location rather than dubbed later in a studio. Michel Gondry felt it was better to have Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet reacting to the children playing their characters as it happened.
In the tape recorded sessions with Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey accidentally wrecked the tape recorder when he got so much into the scene, he threw it across the room.
Kate Winslet’s different hair colors were achieved through wigs, not dyeing. Since the film wasn’t shot in sequence, she sometimes had to have different colors on the same day, so dyeing wasn’t practical. Reportedly, the red one was her favorite.
When Clementine and Joel are in the Montauk beach house, Clementine finds an envelope that says David and Ruth Laskin. David and Ruth are the first names of Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey’s assistants.
The voice whispering “Montauk” in the movie is actually a combination of Kate Winslet’s voice echoing and the voice of Katherine Skjerping, an editor working at the Focus Features production company. Apparently, Skjerping was asked to do a quick voice-over before Winslet arrived, and it was kept in the film.
Unnoticed visual effects that were not planned while shooting were used in the movie. In one shot, Clementine is walking on the street while a car falls in the background. The whole background was replaced with a CG-background, including Clementine’s other leg which disappeared, so the remaining leg was done with CGI. Another shot done in CGI was the house Clementine and Joel were breaking into, which collapses in a four-second shot.
The original screenplay by Charlie Kaufman included a short conversation between Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) about the album “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits during one of the opening scenes on the train. During this conversation, Joel says he remembers buying the album and liking it, but he can’t remember anything about it. While the dialogue was stripped from the film, during the fast shots of Stan (Mark Ruffalo) showing Joel the items he has brought in that remind him of Clementine a copy of the CD “Rain Dogs” can be seen for just a moment. Also the “blue ruin” reference comes from a lyric on the same album.
In the scene where Clementine invites Joel to her apartment for a drink, one of the songs playing in the background on Clementine’s stereo is from the Hindi (Bollywood) movie Gambler (1971) and is sung by Mohammad Rafi. The song after that, which plays immediately after Clementine says “I’m gonna marry you”, is ‘Wada Na Tod’ meaning “Don’t break your promise” in Hindi from the movie Dil Tujhko Diya (1987), and is sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
In the DVD extra “A look inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, Kate Winslet is on-set at a beach talking to the camera next to Michel Gondry. He is wearing headphones and possibly cannot hear what she is saying. She says, “I’m telling my director that he’s irreplaceable. What would I do without my little frog?”
Kate Winslet is the only star from the main cast who has not played a character in a comic book film; Jim Carrey played the title role in The Mask and the Riddler in Batman Forever, Kristen Dunst was Mary Jane in Spider-Man and its sequels, Mark Ruffalo has been The Hulk since Avengers, Elijah Wood was Kevin in Sin City, and Tom Wilkinson was Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins.
In the scene where Clementine returns to Joel’s house drunk, Joel’s answering machine can be seen in the background. It is a Panasonic Easa-Phone.
The “real” Clementine, that is to say not a memory or figment of Joel’s imagination, is only in the film for roughly twenty minutes (and is instantly recognizable by her blue hair).
The original script featured a cut beginning and ending sequence that took place in the future. In the end, an older Clementine comes in to have the procedure done, and a look at her screen shows that she’s had the procedure done multiple times, and all of them involved Joel. At the end of the script, an older Joel calls Clementine to ask why she hasn’t called, but the technicians performing the procedure erase his message. Other cuts in the original script, include a montage of memories people wanted erased, including a soldier seeing his dead friend on a battlefield, and a girl who was raped at a young age. Another subplot dropped from the script, was Mary (Kirsten Dunst) finding out that Howard (Tom Wilkinson) made her get an abortion after they had the affair, resulting in her desire to have her memory wiped.
At least one version of the screenplay ends with Clementine and Joel in an endless cycle of erasures and getting back together. In the last scene, an elderly Clementine visits Dr. Mierzwiak, and the screenplay calls for the audience to see a computer screen showing “a list of fifteen dates of previous erasures stretching back fifty years, all of them involving Joel Barish.” The actual ending used in the movie ends on a much more upbeat note instead.
The band Bayside has a track on their 2005 self-titled album entitled “Montauk”. This is where Joel and Clem meet twice. The song also references the sand and beach.
“I wish you had stayed.”
“When I was a kid, I thought I was. I can’t believe I’m crying already. Sometimes I think people don’t understand how lonely it is to be a kid, like you don’t matter. So, I’m eight, and I have these toys, these dolls. My favorite is this ugly girl doll who I call Clementine, and I keep yelling at her, “You can’t be ugly! Be pretty!” It’s weird, like if I can transform her, I would magically change, too.”
“But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.”
“Hi. Didn’t figure you’d show your face around me again. I guess I thought you were… humiliated. You did run away, after all.”
“Look man, I’m telling you right off the bat, I’m high-maintainance, so… I’m not gonna tip-toe around your marriage, or whatever it is you’ve got goin’ there. If you wanna be with me, you’re with me.”
“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”
“Sometimes I don’t think people realize how lonely it is to be a kid. Like… you don’t matter.”