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Empathizing with Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Hollywood film producers have always taken interest in depicturing the alternative worlds of particular kinds and types. We might consider as a good example the techniques in which the contrast worlds are being embodied in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, and how, in that film, main character Joel Barish attempts to regulate his memories and not let them be vanished. While watching this film we unwittingly get involved into the alternate world of Joel’s memories. The integral aspect in the film’s successful portrayal of the parallel reality from the first sight seems to be related to the specific film shooting or editing technique; however, the philosophy of the film depends on the sequence of the film techniques and how the audience react to the particular scenes of the film and what emotions the film evokes in them. So what are the emotions that the character of Joel Barish played by Jim Carrey evokes in us? The biggest part of the film makes the audience feel pity, insult, even confused and other blanket feelings for him. Joel’s appearance and behavior creates an image of a typical “looser” – slovenly appearance, unshaven face and mess in a cheap apartment; however we don’t just feel sorry for him. By the almost end of the movie we realize that we feel grief and anger with him, or, in other words, we don’t sympathize (feel for someone), but empathize (feel with someone).

The emotional response of the audience to Joel, thus, converges with Alex Neill’s theory on the empathetic response to the film fiction, which he describes in his essay “Empathy and (Film) Fiction”. As we discover fresh feelings with the main character of Eternal Sunshine, we mainly empathize with a particular character or a plot point, enlar...

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...es in misunderstanding the mix of the motions the movie evokes in them, or mainly focus on broad aspects of the story without analyzing its notion. Despite there are some concepts in Neill’s theory that still leave the room for improvement, it can be stated that his lens achieved the level of being valuable in understanding the inner approaches of different films. Apparently, both Alex Neill and Michel Gondry construct their projects leaving the room for the audience to use their imagination and improve their emotional education.

Works cited:

Neill, Alex. “Empathy and (Film) Fiction.” Philosophy of film and motion pictures : an anthology. Ed. Noel Carrol and Jinhee Choi. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. 247-259. Print.

Gaut, Berys. “Identification and Emotion in Narrative Film.” Passionate Views.

Linda Williams. “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre and Excess”
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