“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned” Alexander Pope “Eloisa to Abelard”
Alexander Pope pondered on Heloise and what she must have thought. Her journey from friendship to illicit love and from an affair of the mind to one of the heart should have led her to pray for God’s forgiveness. Only her prayer was not for forgiveness….it was to forget.
Last night I watched again “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It had been a while so there were parts I forgot. I also had for it a new appreciation that comes from a few more years of the life I’ve led since last seeing it. It is the best example of repression I’ve seen in art since reading “The Dead.” Like “Eloise to Abelard” this film is a prayer of sorts, though as it does not deal directly with God, it is more appropriately called a wish. It is the wish to forget. In the case of this film Eloise and Abelard are Clem and Joel and like their medieval counterparts they are bent on forgetting one another, though this is not attained through prayer, but a technology that can erase memory.
I always wonder what happens with the jewelry and letters. In the movie you had to pack them up and turn them in. They were used to reconstruct the memories to be forgotten and then put in something akin to dead files. Once a person forgets another, they are free to enter life again unshackled by the joy and sorrow that made up their previous relationship.
The existential question being asked is if we can forget and really ever move on from anyone, by which I mean do we get to a place beyond repression to discover new joy that is not built on the old ones. The premise here is that if you repress and forget, you will repeat the past and maybe in the most literal of ways. I really don’t want to say much about this movie in case you’ve not seen it. If that is the case….then see it and see it soon. Once you do experience “Eternal Sunshine” you will be given reason to think upon relationship and memory. You will find that despite what Nietzsche said it is more blessed to remember than to forget.