A total downer of pure genius


I was developing a bit of a cold and didn’t feel like going out, so I rented and watched the movie “Synecdoche, New York” last night. It is both one of the most incredible and saddest films I have ever seen. The film follows the life of  the main character of theater director Caden (played to perfection by Philip Seymour Hoffman), who after winning a MacArthur grant, begins work on his magnum opus. It also details his loves and inevitable losses and essential loneliness in the face of other people. The film skips through time and one is never sure if the events are happening in the past or present or in some dystopian dreamworld. His masterpiece is essentially a recreation of the minutiae and scenes of his own life, and throughout the film he spends many many years on it as it becomes more and more unwieldy and self referential. In addition, he keeps seeing parts of his body break down with multiple trips to various doctors. This film is a meditation on the inevitability of death and the futility of holding on to things and people too tightly. There are many scenes pregnant with dark humour and metaphor, and the film could  (and probably should) be watched multiple times, trying to integrate all of the chaos. There was something heart-achingly true and precise about the film, and I would be lying if I said it was uplifting in any way. But through this deep sadness is a sort of cautionary tale about our own ego and illusion of control. We are far better off to let go a little and enjoy the ride without always needing to steer.