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About The Production
Charlie Kaufman, the writer of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, a movie whose title even he had trouble remembering, now brings us SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK, which is by, almost all accounts, a much shorter title. "When I named ETERNAL SUNSHINE… everybody said nobody would ever remember it,” he recalls. "But what's cool is that the title is really easy to remember now. Everybody who knows that movie knows the title. And if this movie gets the proper amount of response, then people will know this one and everyone will know the word ‘synecdoche'—which is a good word to know.” Still, the movie itself never mentions the word, and Kaufman doesn't want to spell it out for people. "One of the things I think is really exciting and joyful about the experience of being an audience member is figuring things out,” he says. "When you make a connection, it's yours, and there's a thrill to that. So people can look up "synecdoche,” if they want. And if they do, maybe they'll think about some things it might correspond to in the movie, and if it opens up another understanding of the film for them, that would be great.”

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is a film that deals with death, illness, despair, loneliness, relationship problems, metaphysics, and heartbreak. "I think the movie is fun,” says Kaufman. "It has a lot of serious emotional stuff in it, but it's funny in a weird way. You don't have to worry, ‘What does the burning house mean?' It's a burning house that someone lives in—that's funny. You might get more out of it if that particular metaphor speaks to you, but you don't need to. Hopefully the movie will work on a lot of levels and people can read different things from it depending on who they are.”

A unique aspect of Kaufman's work (which also includes BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION and HUMAN NATURE) is his blend of the fantastic with deeply felt emotion. "I'm interested in dreams and how we tell stories to ourselves in dreams,” he says. "Let me make it very clear that this film is not a dream, but it does have a dreamlike logic. You can start to fly in a dream and in the dream it's just, ‘Oh yeah, I can fly'—it's not like what your reaction would be in the real world. So everything that happens in this movie is to be taken at face value, it's what's happening. It's okay that it doesn't happen in real life—it's a movie.” Still, as playful as Kaufman's storytelling is, he doesn't create weird situations arbitrarily. "Charlie has these absurd and hilarious ideas, but they are always serving something emotional,” says Spike Jonze, who directed Kaufman's scripts for BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION. "He's always using his intellect to serve something that he's feeling or that means something to him.”

The original impetus of the film was for Kaufman to write a horror film screenplay for Jonze to direct. Of course, there was never any possibility that a Charlie Kaufman "horror film” would become anything like a conventional scary movie. So Kaufman opened his imagination to things that were truly terrifying to him. "My process is to start by thinking about something and see what comes,” says Kaufman. "I prefer to explore notions rather than write toward a predetermined end. This gives the story a chance to grow as I learn more about my subject.” "Charlie would call and say I want to put this idea in the film and that idea in the film,” says Jonze. "And suddenly there were dozens and dozens of ideas. Charlie has a real desire to put everything he's thinking and feeling into the thing he's working on at the time.” It took two years for Kaufman to fully realize the script, and over that time it evolved to a place that had very little to do with the original concept. During this process, Jonze was writing his own screenplay for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, and by the time Kaufman's script was ready, Jonze was already in pre-production on the other film. Not wanting to wait, and having long planned to move into dire


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