If Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind didn’t have Charlie Kaufman and a big budget, it might have looked something like Absolut, a twisted thriller set in Switzerland.
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The movie takes its point of view seriously, right up to (but not including) the last shot. We follow Alex, who is somehow involved in some sort of revolutionary politics. Before we can learn the details of his group’s motives, he wakes up, suddenly, in a hospital. He’s been in a coma for three days. The last thing he remembers is the last thing we saw — him talking with his friend about what he would do the next day to start the sabotage they had planned for two years.
What did he do the next day? Did he carry out his plan? Is he a wanted man? Or did they succeed beyond their wildest dreams? Alex — and the audience — cannot know for sure what happened that day. He — we — are stimulated by an experimental memory-enhancing device, but memory is inherently untrustworthy, and the effects of the machine are unknown.
Slowly, a picture of the missing day, and of their two-year plan, come into focus. But there is always the question of the reliability of Alex’s memory. We never know for sure.
The style of the movie reflects the unsteady state of Alex’s mind. Scenes are repeated with slight differences. The repetition adds weight to the important details, while the differences undermine anything we think we can truly know.
A friend and I agreed that the movie was, on the whole, satisfying. But we disagreed about the ending. She said it was anticlimactic, while I thought it was excellent, logical, and a surprise to boot. Naturally, we disagree on how strongly to recommend the film. But it’s a good sign that we both give it our own “thumbs up.”