Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Here’s the thing.

I’m obsessed with death almost to a fault. This is mostly due to my serious fear of it and my lack of real understanding about how you can exist and then not exist for a way longer time. With that being said, I lost a relative this week. What happened doesn’t matter and we didn’t get to be as close as I would’ve liked but that’s the tragic undertone of life I guess. As someone who obsesses over pop culture, there were two pieces of entertainment that pervaded my mind this week–as they always do when I think of death: Sufjan Stevens songs and Synecdoche, New York.

Released in 2008, Synecdoche, New York marked the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the absurdist manic writer behind such films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. The film follows the life of Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he spirals ever closer to depression and death while losing loved ones and trying to use a MacArthur Fellowship to fund the greatest living and breathing theatre piece ever made.

When the film was first released it was incredibly polarizing. People celebrated its embrace of the despair in life while others find it to eager to be the grimmest portrayal of reality. Truth be told, both views are right. it’s an often times overwhelming piece of art on life and death that borders on depression porn; it’s messy, exhausting and relentless in its presentation and, upon first viewing it, I really wasn’t sure how to feel about it–I was pretty sure I didn’t love it though. Then a strange thing happened: I kept thinking about it. It was on my mind heavily for a long time after viewing and I eventually bought it on dvd and watched it again. This is when I realized that I did love it–and still love it. What this says about me, I’m not sure but what I do know is that, for all it’s rough edges, Synecdoche makes for a wonderful thesis on death. It’s relentlessness is a great asset to it as well. If you can watch Cotard’s life crash in oblivion until his death and still walk away even feeling a little bit better about your own mortality then I think some real personal progress is made. Knowing what I know about my relative who passed I remember why I was so turned off by the movie in the beginning. As much as I hate the sappy redemption story, I feel that an extreme opposite story is no better–but it is more realistic. Maybe shit doesn’t get as bad as it did for Cotard but it does get bad, and no amount of happy endings can gloss over the abysmal affair that is death. I may never get over my qualms about death but I do have an almost child-like appreciation for life.

So R.I.P to my loved one, I’ll remember you for how you were and I hope that you’ve found true peace.

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1 comment
  1. vlt said:

    I had similar 2nd time love expirience with 81/2 recently, but as for this movie I loved it from the start!

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