Synecdoche New York is a movie about movies, but not in the conventional sense. Its affairs do not concern themselves with scrutinizing the method of crafting a narrative, but rather the intentions behind doing so.
What is it to have a true cinematic experience ? I believe it is the singularity of emotions an audience coming from different paths of life experiences when watching a movie. A person feeling the same joy, same sadness, same intrigue as the one sitting next to him. In Synecdoche New York, what Kaufman does is create a world where characters morph into each other every passing scene and subject themselves to desolation of the others, scrutinizing how we as a species react in a state of singularity to same events. But its vision is not limited to the confines of the screen. This movie rather plays outside it. It makes us aware of the actors we are in our perceived reality constructing our own worlds with our own actions while seemingly attributing it to preconceived destiny.
As all great movies made about life are, essentially what defines Synecdoche New York is a quest for a meaning to one’s existence. What Kaufman says is melancholic, but harshly true and beautiful like the poem about spring that opens this movie. Our quest seems to be for a permanent meaning, yet we ourselves change every passing day. All our previous selves survive inside us somehow, and each of them have ascertained themselves with different meanings. Our folly is we yearn for a permanent meaning for our multiple selves, eventually subjecting ourselves to believe in a nihilistic mindset, missing the bigger picture.
As most of Charlie Kaufman’s work has been, Synecdoche New York is a comedy as well. It’s just that it doesn’t rely on gags and one-liners to crack the audience up. Rather it is the irony that even after having every disease imaginable, Caden outlives almost everyone and that this movie begins and ends at 7:45. Does that say something about why it is so convoluted and abstract ? If you look a bit closer at the absurdity of the events, I believe it surely does.
For better or worse, this is a movie about everything. It charters life from the point where thought originates in an individual and subjects the viewer to a downright depressing or hilarious ride, varying on whether you are all worked up when it ends or you have an ironic smile when it does, respectively.
The first time I watched Synecdoche New York, it felt incomplete to me. The second time I realized it was to be completed by my own inadequacies and fears. There are bad movies, passable movies, good movies, excellent movies and great movies. And once in a blue moon, there are movies like Synecdoche New York. These are movies which you feel you can’t tell people about, movies that are so special and so yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal. It sure isn’t the greatest movie ever made or anything, but Synecdoche New York is my movie, just as my body is my body and my thoughts are my thoughts. The day I find someone worth recommending it, my God, that would be the day.
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