This is not going to be a normal review. I will not make a list. I will not make a list of all the things bad, of all the things good, and all the things mediocre in this film. I will not give it a rating other than verbal. I will only talk about it. I will talk about why I think of it so important. Why I believe it to be among the greatest films of all time. This article will be a celebration of Synecdoche, New York.
It is often, that great minds start out small. You could say Charlie Kauffman has done just that. His scripts have always tried capturing the human psyche; His first, a dark comedy, named Being John Malkovich, explored the theme in a strictly literal sense; the characters went inside another man's head and saw the world through his eyes. His second film, Human Nature, explored human behaviour from the perspective of a human ape of sorts. It was an interesting movie, but I always felt the theme is too heavy to be explored in the clichéd enviroment of a romantic comedy. Then came along Adaptation., a film where Kaufman explored mind by juxtaposition, and most of all, he concentrated on his own mind instead of that of a fictional character. Then, in what I consider the most overrated attempt of his career, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kaufman decided with it that instead of exploring the human mind as a whole, he chose a central theme; Love. Then he used this theme to waddle through an entire script.
But now, comes Synecdoche, New York. Where do you go after Eternal Sunshine? I think there's two choices. Either you choose another single emotion, and base the film around it. OR you do the unexpected, and you take on the entire human emotional spectrum. The latter is what Kaufman did. It's a deed most ambitious and almost megalomaniacal in size, but Kaufman chose to write a script about every emotion known to man and then direct the film himself. Much like the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Kaufman finally brings himself to be able to transmit great emotions to the screen instead of simple oddities and bizarre creations. Whereas Tarkovsky always drew power from his childhood, it feels as if Kaufman draws this power from humanity itself, in all it's flaws and petty errors.
However, one must notice, that it is very easy to make a film that encompasses all human emotions. A movie that has just that can easily turn into a slideshow of faces with different looks on them, like in those drawing classes where they teach you to draw different expressions by showing you slideshows of them. A film being like that... well, it's inexcusable. Hence, you have to build a story around those faces. Kaufman creates it about a playwright, and his life. The film chronicles his life for about 40 long years, during which he experiences pretty much everything we experience during our lives. The experiences are portrayed extensively and with little glamour added to them. When Caden's feces is of weird colour, we see his feces being of weird colour. It makes us want to check our own feces. When he is sad, we feel sad. Synecdoche is capable of transmitting every single emotion it has on display into the emotional world of the viewer. You feel every cry, every laugh, every orgasm, every failure, every glimpse of hope, ever single one of the emotions Caden has throughout the story of his life. Every moment of Synecdoche, as a result, feels emotional and different from most films.
This is why I think Synecdoche, New York is better than almost any other film made in the last ten years. It is emotion. We are emotion. We are Synecdoche. We are us.
"What was once before you - an exciting, mysterious future - is now behind you. Lived; understood; disappointing. You realize you are not special. You have struggled into existence, and are now slipping silently out of it. This is everyone's experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter. Everyone's everyone."
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