Updated: May 26
2008 brought the world so many great films, from The Dark Knight to WALL-E, yet none of them even stand remotely close to the genius and scale of Synecdoche, New York, the directorial debut of writer Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation).
Synecdoche, New York stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton and Catherine Keener and tells the tale of a dying playwright who wants to create a play about the honesty and brutality of life.
There is nothing in this film that is wrong. Every shot, every line, every facial expression, and every action has been calculated to precision and caries layers upon layers of meaning and hidden backstory. It is a genius film that captures the meanest and most brutal yet honest moments of life in only two hours.
First, we must discuss what makes this film so special: the screenplay. Every monologue, phrase or line packs a punch of emotion that may look like nothing on the surface, yet reveals so much more when looked at more closely. It toys with realism up to the point where one can't tell between what's brutally real and what's a figment of the protagonist's pessimistic view of everything around him.
The editing is also brilliant. The way the film presents time is so magical and perfect that it may take several viewings to notice every single shift in time within the film. It may be a newspaper a character is holding, a calendar in the background, a phone call or a radio transmission emitting from a speaker far away, but there are always subtle hints that point to when everything is taking place. In fact, there are rarely two consecutive scenes that occur on the same date. Yet one does not notice this upon, yet again, closer inspection.
The acting in Synecdoche, New York is also marvelous. Every performance is so layered with emotion, whether it be of pure joy or deepest despair, until you forget you are watching just a movie, with people playing people. Not a person in the film is miscast, and everyone serves their purpose. Again, it is just perfect.
And the score. Whether it be static noises put together to create an strange yet fitting melody or lyrics written by Kaufman himself, no scene would resonate in this way if it weren't for the music playing in the background. Without context, the compositions and original songs heard throughout the film might seem happy and tame, but hearing them after watching the film turns them into horrible noise that reminds you of some of the darkest scenes you have ever witnessed in a movie.
Really and truly, I could go on and on about what makes this film so mesmerizing. I could talk about the ending, or the philosophy behind the film, or the beautiful yet tragic messages of life it carries, but I would have written for hours and still not have done this piece of art justice. So, please, do yourself a favor and go watch Synecdoche, New York, and then you'll know everything you need to know.
Here at The CinemaScope, we recommend this picture and give it our highest score.
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