I saw the movie Synecdoche New York, the fourth of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays to be turned into a large Hollywood production, last night and must say that while there were several really interesting and possibly even profound elements/themes, I was ultimately disappointed.
It is not that it is not worth seeing. Kaufman continues what he is great at, the investigation of the nebulous line dividing fantasy from reality–although there were some disappointing parts in which this line and the tension it brings completely disappear. It is much larger, and probably more banal to most, than critical artistic or thematic comments. I don’t know if it is because I am getting older, or becoming more of a fundamentalist–i hope not; but I did not like Synecdoche because it is simply not true.
At the end of the movie we are offered a materialized pseudo-Buddhist reading of reality. It is the author’s attempt to give meaning, or rather embrace the lack of meaning that we are left with in our post-Nietzschian culture after the death of God. This movie, more so than any of Kaufman’s others, is an exploration into the nihilism imbued into our present cultural milieu. An exploration that offers no answer because it itself is and constructs this very cultural milieu.
We are lost and alone in the universe. While many of us are tempted and give into an overwhelming narcissism, it would be better for us to recognize that in reality we don’t exist, or rather I don’t exist, that I am you and you are me and I am the Milky Way and you are a… blah! A badly concocted philosophical cocktail attempting to overcome an indifferent and hostile universe. The problem for me is that, as I have said, this is simply not true. It is a bad narration of human life and if there is one thing that Kaufman’s films get right and thus can help teach us it is that the narratives we tell ourselves often shape the way that we see things, or put more strongly, reality. I am such a fundy.