‘Synecdoche, NY’ unique hit

Joe Cramer

“Synecdoche, New York” is a film that defies classification.

One dare not attempt to call it a comedy, a drama, a fantasy or a tragedy because it is all of these and none of them at the same time.

Furthermore, should you dare to set aside two hours of your life to watch it, you will find yourself watching what may be the most confounding and thematically imperceptible film in recent memory.

In spite of all this, it is a truly unique and captivating piece of cinema that hides profound truths about human nature beneath its nearly impenetrable exterior.

Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, the reality-bending scribe behind bizarre fare such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Being John Malkovich,” “Synecdoche, New York” tells the surreal story of small town playwright Caden Cotard, who, realizing his own mortality and inadequacies, sets out to compose a work of art that replicates the universal struggles and experiences of all mankind.

It is an ambitious task to say the least, so it is helpful that he comes into possession of a massive warehouse in which he is able to stage this colossal production.

While this description summarizes the basic narrative flow of the “Synecdoche, New York,” it is a meager treatment of the complexities that inhabit it from start to finish.

The world Kaufman has created and the characters living within it are completely unrecognizable despite the familiar setting and ordinary nature of the characters.

The interactions and behaviors of the characters are so bizarre that it soon becomes apparent that this is representation of the most complex form.

In fact, the greatest mistake one can make while watching this movie is viewing it within normal frameworks.

Events occur with no propagation; characters appear and disappear on a whim.

It is a modern-day fantasy that discovers the absurd in the realm of the stiflingly normal.

Illustrating this point, throughout the film, Caden reads from the diary of his daughter, who left for France with his wife at the outset of the film when she was a young girl.

However, the entries in the diary she left behind are written by her older self, even though she is in Europe with her mother.

Additionally, the warehouse in which he stages his epic, while located within the boundaries of the theatre district, somehow manages to house a life-size replica of New York City.

The standard limits of space, reality and chronology are broken for this mind-bending masterpiece.

The focal point of the entire work is the fascinating character of Caden. Kaufman portrays him as a man who views not only himself but everyone in his life as merely characters in his own selfish play.

As he continues to go through his life as a character rather than a human being, he becomes increasingly disconnected from reality, as is symbolized by the escalating absurdity of the events that transpire.

Kaufman is an impeccable writer and living proof that creativity is far from dead in modern film.

A lesser filmmaker would have botched the execution of such a complex and multi-layered concept, yet Kaufman manages to keep viewers interested, even though they may not have the slightest clue of what is going on.

He has created an alternate reality that pokes and prods our perceptions, challenges us as viewers.

The word “synecdoche” is a literary term that refers to the use of a part to represent the actual whole.

As the title implies, then, “Synecdoche, New York” is a film about representation.

Whether it is the replica of New York or the multitude of actors that Caden hires to play the people in his own life, everything stands for something else.

On the surface, we are only allowed a glimpse of the ultimate message.

One must probe through the nearly incomprehensible collection of inexplicable events to access its true meaning.

While not for everyone, this endlessly thought-provoking film is a true gem for those willing to put on their thinking caps for two hours.

It is more like poetry than film, requiring a distinctly literary mode of thinking to truly appreciate its beauty.

“Synecdoche, New York” is not a film that provides answers. At the end of the film, all we are left with are more questions – not only about the film but about life itself.

While bold themes and conclusions about life, relationships and the creative process are there, they are so well hidden behind a mesmerizing trip through the artistic mind that one cannot discover them in a single viewing, making it a film worth watching many times over.