Synecdoche, New York [Celluloid Hero]
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Have you ever tried to write a story about your life? Even just a part of it, a certain relationship or incident that you thought would be worth re-telling as a book or a movie or a play. Where would you start this story? Where would you end it? Would looking back at your past alter the way you lived your future? Would you make it so autobiographical that it included you writing about yourself? Would writing a play about the fact that you were writing a play about yourself even make sense anymore?
“Synecdoche, New York” is one of the most brutally sad movies I’ve ever seen. It starts more like a dark comedy; Philip Seymour Hoffman’s playwright Caden comes down with a series of ailments resulting in some pretty comedic scenes surrounding visits to doctors. But as the movie goes on, it just sucks you into this sad sad world he lives in.
There’s a meta-reality that engulfs you while watching. Caden is building a life-size replica of New York City as the setting of his play, and also essentially building a life-size replica of his life. He is trying so hard to make his work authentic, down to the last detail, that he becomes obsessed with bringing every aspect of his life into his play. He incorporates every feeling and emotion into the writing of this play, so much that the line is blurred between what is real and what is dramatic. In doing so, the play is constantly being re-written and re-re-written and re-re-re-written. Real people come into Caden’s life and are written into the story, then written into the story-within-the-story, and so on; these people and relationships fall apart in reality, then fall apart in the story and the story’s story.
Every artist strives to be truthful in their work, but most don’t achieve total honesty; this an amazing look at the idea of being absolutely truthful in your work, but somehow remembering that it isn’t real itself.
And at some point, the story has to end.
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Synecdoche, New York” gets a 10 out of 10.