Films & Architecture: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

  • 27 Dec 2012
  • by
  • Films & Architecture

This week we will recommend you a really surrealistic film. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, directed by Michael Gondry is a movie that takes place in a future where medicine technics allow people to modify and delete some memories. These changes are reflected in the space perception of the characters. The scenes morph and human scale is shrunk, buildings disappear and daylight turns into absolut darkness in seconds.

Enjoy the movie and let us know your comments. Do you think architecture can be described through memories? Any ideas about our memories and space perception?


Original title: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Year: 2004
Runtime: 108 min.
Country: United States
Director: Michael Gondry
Writer: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
Soundtrack: Jon Brion
Cast: , Kate Winslet, Gerry Robert Byrne, Elijah Wood, Thomas Jay Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Adams, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Ryan Whitney, Debbon Ayer, Amir Ali Said, Brian Price, Paul Litowsky


Emotionally withdrawn Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and unhinged free spirit Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) strike up a relationship on a Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk, New York. They are almost immediately drawn to each other on account of their radically different personalities.

Although they apparently do not realize it at the time, Joel and Clementine are in fact former lovers, now separated after having spent two years together. After a nasty fight, Clementine hired the New York City firm Lacuna, Inc. to erase all her memories of their relationship. (The term “lacuna” means a gap or missing part; for instance, lacunar amnesia is a gap in one’s memory about a specific event.) Upon discovering this, Joel is devastated and decides to undergo the procedure himself, a process that takes place while he sleeps.

Much of the film takes place in Joel’s mind. As his memories are erased, Joel finds himself revisiting them in reverse. Upon seeing happier times of love with Clementine from earlier in their relationship, he struggles to preserve at least some memory of her and his love for her. Despite his efforts, the memories are slowly erased, with the last memory of Clementine telling him: “Meet me in Montauk”.

In separate but related story arcs occurring during Joel’s memory erasure, the employees of Lacuna are revealed to be more than peripheral characters. Patrick (Elijah Wood), one of the Lacuna technicians performing the erasure, is dating Clementine while viewing Joel’s memories, and copying aspects of their relationship in order to seduce her. Mary (Kirsten Dunst), the Lacuna receptionist, turns out to have had an affair with Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), the married doctor who heads the company—a relationship which she agreed to have erased from her memory when it was discovered by his wife. Once Mary learns this, she quits her job and steals the company’s records, then sends them out to all clients of the company.

Joel and Clementine come upon their Lacuna records shortly after re-encountering each other on the train. They react with shock and bewilderment, given that they have no clear memory of having known each other, let alone having had a relationship and having had their memories erased. Joel beckons Clementine to start over; Clementine initially resists, pointing out it could go the same way. Joel accepts this, and they decide to attempt a relationship anyway, starting their life together anew.


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Previously posted on this section…

Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”" 27 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • Jon Scherptong

    This has allways been one of my favorite movies ever since I´ve first seen it. Just watched it again a week ago. The attention to detail in this film is inspiring. The story by itself is great but cinematics makes me forget there´s a world outside of Joel´s head.
    In my opinion architecture and art in a way are our memories and experiences. Wether consciously or unconsciously architects and artist somehow translate their experiences and memories in to their creations. Interesting questions, brilliant movie.

    • chi

      I completely agree with you. Thinking about it, everything we do, say, make, interpret, and see are all influenced by our past experiences and memories. Crazy!

  • zulfikri mokoagow

    i like how this movie set the scale of perception on the joel(jim carrey) child memory scene, they done it best for how the perception work actually. the reality(experiences) however is just mind perception, bunch of complex intergrated perception that creates what we call reality. So even joel in unconsciously mode, the mind still work as it usual concsious life. it brint us to interpret what is Dream?i’m pretty sure the dream itself is a reality.
    well, the movie show some memorable places that joel go through in his mind, i’m curious, how the place could be choose, is it randomly? or there’s some big part of realty such a sound, space or event that made it as an important memory for his mind.

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