Review: Eternal Sunshine (Part 2)
My only knowledge of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s original script came from a piece of trivia in its IMDB listing (I love picking through IMDB’s trivia section). It mentioned Joel and Clementine originally written to have erased each other multiple times, into their old age, pointing to the doomed nature of their relationship.
This past week, I read through the script. It made an outstanding companion to the film—to see what Charlie Kaufman originally envisioned. As written, Joel was not the most sympathetic character. In the movie, he mentions already having a live-in girlfriend (Naomi) when he meets Clementine. In the script, Naomi has a much larger role—she’s there when Joel returns from the beach house, and although he’s bored in their relationship (which is why he’s drawn to Clementine’s excitement), she’s not a bad person. But he quickly dumps her to be with Clementine. Then after he’s erased Clementine, he immediately reconnect with Naomi and sleeps with her, only to push her away again the next day (after meeting Clementine again for the first time).
I can see why they edited her out. Naomi seems to work as a counterpart to Patrick, for the people Joel and Clementine turn to. But Joel’s conflicted enough. And she makes him much less sympathetic. The movie’s about his break-up with Clementine, not with Naomi as well.
There’s also more to Mary and her doomed relationship with Walter, the doctor in charge of Lacuna Industries. In the film, we know she had an affair with Walter, a memory she learns she had erased. In the script, not only did she have an affair but also an abortion as a result—the pain of not remembering drives her to mail back all of the patients’ files. It explains her actions in the film (in the script, she argues—as much as the audience no doubt does—that memories, however painful, still need to be remembered). Kaufman still challenges us on this point though, asking in the script, what about memories of the horrors of war? What about memories of rape?
And, there are two lovely bits of poetry that the movie choose not to include (or could not for legal reasons, who knows). The beach house has special significance to Joel and Clementine, in part because they find it while discovering they both love the same poem:
Do you know her poem that starts “Seaside gusts of wind,/And a house in which we don’t live…
Yeah, yeah. It goes “Perhaps there is someone in this world to whom I could send all these lines”?
The beach house becomes their house in which they don’t live. The poem (named “Erased” appropriately enough, goes on: Well then!/Let the lips smile bitterlyAnd a tremor touch the heart again.)
The second lovely bit comes in a scene when they are intimate in bed. In the movie, Clementine is talking about an ugly doll she had as a kid, that she yelled at to be pretty—she thought if she could change the doll, then she could be pretty, too. It makes her vulnerable, and Joel loves the bonding between them, especially when she’s so aggressive around him the rest of the time.
In the script, her speech instead references the Velveteen Rabbit:
It’s my favorite book. Since I was a kid. It’s about these toys. There’s this part where the skin Horse tells the rabbit what it means to be real.
(crying) I can’t believe I’m crying already. He says, “It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
It’s a much more important speech. It’s not just about her, but about their relationship, about how people truly in love look past all flaws and faults in one another; they don’t, in fact, even see them.
For Joel and Clementine, that’s the crux of the movie. They do see each other’s flaws, to the point where they break-up catastrophically—and Joel, looking back, finally realizes that he didn’t understand. It’s the point in the script where he decides he doesn’t want to forget Clementine after all—he changes his mind, he yells out that he wants to stop. But by then of course it’s all too late.