‘Eternal’ tale that defies simplicity

Times Staff Writer

Its internal math is as complex as a graduate quantum physics seminar, yet at the heart of Charlie Kaufman’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” resides a surprisingly poignant love story, a storytelling combination that won the best original screenplay Oscar.

“I don’t want to take my time,” the introverted Kaufman said from the awards podium. “I want to get off the stage.”

Also nominated for best original screenplay were the writers behind “The Aviator,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Incredibles” and “Vera Drake.”

Considered the most inventive voice in Hollywood, Kaufman, a former television sitcom writer, has been nominated for the Academy Award twice before but has never won.


His script for 1999’s “Being John Malkovich” was nominated as best original screenplay, while his very loose reworking of the book “The Orchid Thief” for 2002’s “Adaptation” was nominated for best adapted screenplay.

His “Eternal Sunshine” script, whose story credit Kaufman shares with Pierre Bismuth and the film’s director, Michel Gondry, has received numerous prizes from other organizations leading up to the Oscars, including the award for best original screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

“Eternal Sunshine,” which takes its name from an Alexander Pope poem, has at its center a traditional narrative about a man, Joel (Jim Carrey), who falls in love with a woman, Clementine (Kate Winslet).

Virtually everything else about the script defies classification.

Clementine undergoes a process to have the memories of their troubled relationship erased from her mind. But when Joel tries to do the same, his unforgettable affection for Clementine is rekindled.

“I wanted to make an honest relationship story,” Kaufman said.