Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Synecdoche

If you like movies that you think about for days afterward - you will love Synecdoche, New York. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is filled with so much symbolism it makes your head spin. First of all, the word synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. For example using the word law for police officers. The main character is named Caden Cotard. Cotard's syndrome is one in which a person believes he is dead or does not exist. I will not pretend to be able to analyze the complexity of this film, but here is the bare bones plot: A theater director who's life is in shambles wins a huge grant, builds a life-size replica of Manhattan and spends 17 years staging his life story.
When the perplexing movie was over I simply thought it was a movie about LIFE, specifically about the futility of life and all of the seasons and trials that we move through - failed relationships and creative efforts, fear, loss, death, confusion, illness etc.
There are dopplegangers galore. Caden appears to be completely narcissistic as he imagines someone is always watching him and believes his life is worthy of a play that continues to be rehearsed year after year. He struggles with personality integration and possibly gender identification. One of the lines in the film is "there are 13 billion people in the world - none of those people is an extra; they're all leads in their own stories."
My favorite symbol is an eternally burning house. One of the characters, Hazel, says, "I like it, I do, but I'm concerned about dying in the fire." The realtor replies, "It's a big decision, how one chooses to die."
Some of our choices are fatal, some are harmful to ourselves or others. To me, the burning house is a reminder that everything is continually disintegrating and going away - everything material and our very lives. I don't see that as depressing, just reality.

I thought Synecdoche, New York was quite brilliant and I probably should have watched it more than once to get the complete idea, but if you are up for a kind of slow but challenging film - let me know what you think!

4 comments:

FranIAm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FranIAm said...

Oh look at me - thinking about the movie made me type incorrectly...

I wanted to see this when it was in the theatres here, but it came and went quickly.

I think I will be adding this to Netflix. Thank you for the review.

Jan said...

I've added it to my Netflix queue. Thanks.

Susan's Snippets said...

DVF -

This post made me chuckle...only because I am not a movie person. The rare times I sit down long enough to watch one...it is usually a light and fluffy love story or a comedy.

deep movies not for me