Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Cunning Von Trier!
After watching Synecdoche, New York, I lost the expectation to be able to find movies that would offer me the same level of catharsis that's incited by Synecdoche, New York. But Dogville was the proof of my false assumption.
However, emotional release is probably the last thing that speaks the greatness of this movie. How Von Trier deceives and plays his audience like puppets through Dogville are things that make me consider putting this movie side to side with Synecdoche, New York.
Through this movie, Von Tier invites you to a seemingly sophisticated discussion on human nature and morality. He treats you like an equal colleague and nods in an agreement on whatever ideas you proposed while gently directs you to ideas and point of views that will be employed to make his point. He will provoke you a little and then discuss your reaction to the provocation before supporting your rationalization with an inaudible patronizing tone.
In the end, he will hand you a gun and tell you that you have made a perceptive point. You'll start blazing that gun to all directions. And you know that it's already too late when you hear a tiny giggle coming from behind. You maybe dismiss that victorious giggle altogether and delude yourself into believing that you only do what you're doing for humanity. Or, you can laugh in a horrible excitement without noticing Von Trier's giggle and accept his view on humanity. Either way, you lose.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Kaufman speaks honestly
Some people who dislike Synecdoche, New York, consider that this film is self-indulgent and pretentious. Some also describe it as nothing but an artistic masturbation. I reckon that the seemingly uncontrollable surge of symbolism, the inexplicable connection between a symbol and another, and the hazy theme of the film have a major part in generating the negative reception. Nevertheless, the aversive outlook is a misjudgment of the film and could mislead potential viewers. In my opinion, Synecdoche, New York is far from so-called artistic masturbation. In fact, this film is truthful in its narration and delivering of its ideas. It is not trying to be complicated and artsy in order to be complicated and artsy. It is neither a shenanigan from a naughty artist who already has a big name with the object of pleasing himself.
Those who have seen and enjoyed Kaufman's previous works can understand that he likes to scrutinize his own mind (and ours in process). We can see how he longs for the understanding of his mind, which he seems to believe holding the key to understanding the world or maybe to coming closer to the truth. This explains the themes he often uses in his works; the concept of soul in Being John Malkovich, the adaptation of the mind to the well-constructed representation of reality in Adaptation, and the meaning of identity and being in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Unlike in his prior work, Adaptation, Kaufman doesn't try to "play" in Synecdoche, New York. I don't refer to his using of his alter egos in Adaptation, but to the way he plays with his ideas (Btw, I love that well-executed playfulness of his in Adaptation). In Synecdoche, New York, he doesn't leave the second half of his script to Donald Kaufman (although that's how he stays faithful to the main theme of Adaptation). He also doesn't bail on ideas he has put forward in order to wrap the ideas with the main idea he intended to make. This time, Kaufman is very patient in exploring and dwelling in his labyrinthine mind without taking a glance at the seduction of his playfulness (maybe a little bit). It is a long and painful road he's taking. However, this road doesn't lead to any certain conclusion. Yet, it is neither a journey into the abyss of nothingness.
Synecdoche, New York is purely philosophical but without neglecting the aesthetic value and entertaining elements for audience to enjoy. It seeks to find the ultimate reality by using established philosophical notions (especially post-modernists' ideas about ultimate reality and meaning). Nevertheless, it doesn't merely borrow the notions. It puts them into a test and shows us how they work. It focuses on a process of how the ideas of schools of philosophy emerge. We can see how Caden (powerfully played by Hoffman) tries to recreate reality in order to see and understand the meaning of his life, but more importantly the nature of meaning itself that raises questions such as: can we really hold it with our minds? Is it something that exists only in the horizon of endless ocean? Or does it really exist? Which one is real, meaning or the signifier? Which one is the first, meaning or the thing that represents it? And how can a signifier of certain meaning produce several meanings that generate new meanings in order to repeat the same process? In the end, after bopping around from one metaphysical idea to another (from the belief that a sign constitutes a meaningmetaphysical presenceto the impossible existence of meaning, from the idea about the world that represents nothing but the representation of signs with many layers of signs to the idea about interpolating signifiers into other signifiers that causes the lost of meaning ), this film, in the same perspective with Derrida, asserts that ultimate reality and meaning may exist but to find them is an eternal search.
I know that it is reductive to sum up a movie that is emotionally powerful and schools of philosophy that have rich histories and ideas just in a few sentences. And i'm aware that my perspective and short analysis on this film may not be true but it's just one of possible ways to see it. Moreover, these metaphysical and philosophical understandings are useless if one cannot enjoy the film and feel captured by it.
However, if you are not familiar with postmodern philosophy you are still able to identify with characters' confusion, agony, and anguish. Synecdoche, New York is so powerful in transferring its dark, gloomy, and mysterious emotions that will leave you with almost unbearable feelings. You will feel exhausted but grateful for it. This film will stay in your head for days. You will feel that this film talks to you in a strange language that you can't fully comprehend. Yet, you are sure that you completely understand it although it is hard for you to articulate your understanding.