If you haven't entered the weird and wonderful world of Charlie Kaufman before, then Synecdoche, New York probably wouldn't be the best film to start off with. Then again, most of his work is pretty crazy. After enjoying his other films, like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I once again prepared myself for something unusual, but had no idea how emotional it was going to be.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my favourite actors, plays Caden Cotard, a theatre director who stages an autobiographical play set in a huge warehouse made to resemble New York City. The play is permanently in rehearsals running parallel with his real life, introducing new actors to play the people in his life, including himself. Things get a little confusing when real life overlaps stage life.
I don't want to pretend that I know all that is going on in this film, and I will probably never fully understand the mind of Charlie Kaufman, but there are so many great scenes I connected with that also made me think about my own life and how it has panned out so far. That is probably why I got so passionate about the film and had to watch it again and again looking for answers. It was like the film was talking directly to me.
The themes that stood out the most were: those of his marriage to Adele Lack (played by Catherine Keener) where she wants to break free from him and only be surrounded by happy, joyous people; his insecurities with his own body image and sexual relationships after his marriage ends; his want to do something significant in life or to even just have had a picnic in the park with his daughter just like his mother did with him, so that she would be able to remember it as a significant moment in her life... Sorry I got carried away there! ... Speaking of getting carried away, there is a scene towards the end that has one of the best sermons by a priest I have ever heard.
The film found me at a time in my life when I was re-evaluating where I had been and where I was going. It made me think a lot (and still does) about my own decisions and choices and where they have taken me. As Caden Cotard tries to bottle his life (and New York) in a warehouse, Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York has also captured some sort of meaning to our miserable, pathetic lives. LOL
Want to write for SBS Film? We want you share your story about your favourite film from world, indie or arthouse cinema. Simply write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (with My Favourite Film in the subject line), and tell us what your all-time favourite film is, and why you'd like to write about in an upcoming SBS Film newsletter.