Sunday, November 7, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #24 WGA Script of All Time - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

[Quick Summary: After a nasty breakup with Clementine, Joel undergoes a procedure to erase her from his memory.  But soon he becomes desperate to keep those memories.]

Charlie Kaufman certainly is not afraid of multiple jumps in time & location.  In lesser hands, the reader would get lost. 

Kaufman, however, uses simple sentences to:
- paint the picture
- transition to the jump
- keep the momentum going.

(Note that simple does not mean boring or plodding. ex. "Sally sat down. She sipped coffee. She cried."  I beg of you - no more.)

Kaufman doesn't break up the flow with a slugline "INT. WE ARE GOING INTO A MEMORY NOW."   Instead, he uses the narrative wisely. 

ex.  Joel is in the lab hooked up to a machine.  The scene transitions from the lab into Joel's memory.  Here are three consecutive sentences:

1) "The room, Stan, & Mierzwiak are now vague and wispy." Clearly we're fading from the present moment.

2) "Joel watches Stan. Stan is not speaking, yet his voice continues."  Again, it's clear lips aren't moving, and Joel is sinking into the memory.

3) "Joel looks up. Stan's voice seems to be coming from above."  It's very clear that we're transitioning to a jump in time or location.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The audience can follow jumps in time & location, but only if the writer is CLEAR what is happening.

The best way is simple sentences, & proper preparation in the narrative for the jumps. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
by Charlie Kaufman

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