Synecdoche, New York .... and life

Paul Grobstein's picture

Reviewers are all over the map on this one so, for what its worth, my take ...

More than worth seeing.  Very rich in visual imagery, characters, and puzzlement, a lot like life at its best.  And much more coherent than it may seem at first glance, also a lot like life at its best?  We are all both authors of our own stories and characters in the stories of others.  We are all also both authors and characters in our own.  That's life. Comic, tragic, surreal, quite ordinary, sad, enriching, confusing, empowering ... depending on who you are and what you bring to it.  A world inevitably reflecting, for worse and for better, our own images of ourselves and our place in it.  Synecdoche, and Schenectady ... and life.        

Comments

Anne Dalke's picture

the unrepresentability of the world....

To me, this film clearly demonstrates that each of us actually is "the lead in our own life," NOT a side character or understudy for someone else. The most poignant moment--of many poignant moments--comes when the character who plays the main character kills himself. (The main character shouts @ the dead body, "But I didn't jump! I didn't jump!"--as if it mattered.)

More largely? The film is all about the inadequacy of representation: about our inability to represent, in any form, all the complexity of life. The film itself, which goes on way too long, actually demonstrates this impossibility in its form, as it keeps trying, futilely trying.... So too does the work of the couple @ the center of the film: he's got a gargantuan vision, trying to re-create all of NYC in a warehouse, and she's a minaturist, painting images so tiny that her audiences have to view them through magnifying glasses....


And finally, the film is about how sad it can be, not to be able to capture it all. This was the most intriguing part to me--the pathos with which the story was told: so much loneliness, so much sadness, so much disappointment ("have I disappointed you somehow?")....Especially intriguing because a year ago I co-wrote (with Liz McCormack in the Physics Dept. here) an essay called "Synecdoche and Surprise" that came to a very different conclusion: that the unrepresentability of the world--the inability of "parts" to accurately reflect "wholes" that is the definition of "synecdoche"--is actually what fuels our going-on-with-the process of seeking and learning and making up new representations. A process that is far from tragic, but rather the engine and essence of the educational process....

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