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Disregard Females, Acquire Magic
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This movie is absolutely amazing, one of the best I have ever seen. Even after watching the book it managed to impress me, despite knowing the plot and ending.

This is both an amazing film and also I feel Charlie Kaufman's pinnacle as a screenwriter, almost a goodbye at the end of his career.

Focusing on the movie, it is so well written. There are so many details that could only be displayed in the film format (e.g., the shot late on of a hand on the wheel and the succubus's face as though she is driving) and also as typical of Charlie Kaufman there is the referencing to his own movies and career, including Adaptation (the notion of a "twin" who is living out one's fantasies of success - the guy who "gets the succubus" in the romantic movie within the film,), Eternal Sunshine (the idea of memories but also the shot from above of the car in the snow top-left of screen, like the ice with the crack in it from the Eternal Sunshine… movie poster), Synechdoche (with the "stalker" who is actually the character from the future stalking him throughout the movie). It is fucking fantastic.

The risk he takes in allowing his characters to read out poems, to recite verbatim a movie review which is relevant to this film as well as the film that the review was about in real life (the character himself is viewing his life back as though it is a movie). At the beginning of the movie Jacob says that his girlfriend is "ideal", which is obviously true in two ways, and then says that he will read out this poem about an idealised succubus and says "It goes like this…" or "I'll read it, it begins like this.." and then she interrupts him and the rest of the movie is the poem about this idealised succubus (i.e., an idealised life, in part) being recited in the form of actions and memories.

This movie really left an impression. It deals with regret, haunting memories, the inability to accurately remember people to the point where their characters are rather absurd or like patchwork quilts constructed from their various periods and other smaller memories associated with them. The fact the movie also suggests early on that it is a classic horror movie, and retains that sense of dread and the possibility that is a horror movie and then reveals it is in fact a horror movie but not the kind we are used to. An absolute masterpiece.


Note: even if it is in part about romantic regret, which is unwizardly, the inclusion of a female character is in the book made more obvious to represent in part another half or part of his psyche, in Jungian terms which insists that each person consists of an anima and animus, or "female" and "male" part. Kaufman doesn't reference Jung in the movie (understandably, in order to make it his own) but as usual Kaufman's wide use of references make it a piece of art truly. A man hurtling towards an inevitability, memories which are cold and sweet, the father who always seems so large in our memory, the overbearing mother who we are always tempted to blame for our fucked up lives, the artistic dreams which we repressed and kept in the basement of our thoughts.


I liked this bit.


Definitely. And what a risk in a big-budget movie to include a whole poem like that. I'm not too sure why "she" breaks character during the poem to look back out the rear window at the camera, but Joel also breaks the fourth wall when singing the Tulsi Town song late in the movie as, if I understand it correctly, he regresses in memory to one of his earliest memories (recalling the childlike Tulsi Town advert, and his visit there - where, in the movie, he acts like a child who wants his mother to order because he is too shy).

I thought that since I had read the book the movie would be underwhelming, but what a masterpiece. Some of the reviews I have read claim it is mostly about a young succubus trying to realise herself despite being idealised (similar to Eternal Sunshine.., a little) and that may be true but it's also a side of the character trying to realise itself also. What a heartbreaking movie as she keeps trying to tell the character that she is thinking of ending things, that the old man is thinking of killing himself, but is constantly interrupted by his desire to keep living in fantasy, to keep reminiscing, to keep pretending there is hope, until finally she is locked out of the car at the end which is such a poignant moment. There is no going back now, she is locked out of the vehicle which allows him to travel through his mind into fantasy and memory, she is fated to confront the moment, at the end of his final shift, when the tragedy of his life overwhelms him and he has made the decision to die. In the book this comes in the form of about four pages of the exact same question being written over and over ("What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for?"). The book version didn't move me that much, since it was so interesting to read from a philosophical standpoint, but the fucking tragedy of the movie and this man's life, many of our lives, definitely my own, was so touching. I cried in this movie.


You make it sound like an extremely pretentious film/novel.


it kinda is but at its core it's just a sad movie about a lonely old man fantasizing about a past that never happened


I don't think the poem was risky at all, since it perfectly expresses Kaufman's style of absurd loneliness.

It seems like every Kaufman movie starts out with some banal, slightly melancholic reality that gets progressively more absurd as the movie goes on without the characters even noticing. I don't see the point in analyzing this stuff when the whole intent is to be absurd and non-sensical in order to be able to create certain impressions and perspectives that are unavailable through a logical, coherent narrative. This time, he's "saved" at the end by showing that it was all in someone's daydream or some hallucination from hypothermia and viewer feels it happened justifiably.

I think trying to analyze this stuff is like explaining a joke, it misses the entire point. It doesn't matter why a certain character was acting a certain way, "he was regressing to his earliest memory" is a coherent and perfectly logical explanation, but it's a setup for the actually interesting stuff that's being expressed. Like how the main character has a certain kindness to her beauty that is contrasted with the other mean pretty succubi. How else could the screenwriter start talking about this? The boring alternative would be having two "intellectual" characters that start discussing things and then ending up at that, but certainly it was much better expressed through an absurd scene like that.

Every review tries to EXPLAIN the movie instead of actually talking about the interesting stuff. The fact that it was in some guys dream is just a justification for the absurdity the screenwriter put you through.


It's not amazing once you get the twist. I still found the dialogue to be pretentious from time to time. Overall not bad 6.5/10


Thought it was pure garbage and dropped it after 40 minutes. Everyone uses the creepy trope these days to cover up their inability to make good art


Creepy trope?


It's okay to not get it


I liked the movie. I didn't "get" it, but I was never bored. I felt like I was losing my goddamn mind when little details kept changing, like the bandage on the father's head. The scene with Jake feeding his decrepit mother hit too close to home. It's very well made. I have no idea what it was "about" or "trying to say," but I liked it a lot.


The movie is about an elderly man who presumably has never had a girlfriend and dropped out of society (beyond having a janitorial job) in his 20s.

The narrative in the movie itself takes place within the elderly man's imagination, as he pays one last visit to his memories before he dies. Alongside him is a succubus, who is both his anima (in Jungian terms, every person contains an Anima and Animus, male and female component), and also an idealised girlfriend he never had (he describes her early on as "ideal", jokingly).

They drive through heavy snow and she sees a brand new swingset in the garden of an abandoned home, and this suggests the following scenes are going to be a similar mix-up of memories, their chronology confused. Jake takes his girlfriend to the family barn, where he mentions that his father found these pigs which had been rotting for a long time without anyone knowing, eaten alive by maggots. This is both a significant memory for Jake, but also symbolic of his own later life, where he goes about his daily life but is rotting inside, eaten alive by the maggots of regret and despair etc.

The family scenes in the farm house shows us that Jake is somewhat autistic / avoidant and that he is nonetheless caring towards his elderly parents as their health deteriorates. It is also suggested IMO that Jake is a momma's boy, both because his mother is there on stage at the end of the movie clapping and also because in the farm house his father says to the girlfriend that she may want to put on some of Jake's mother's lingerie so she and Jake can fuck - this suggests an oedipal complex Jake wasn't able to transcend or overcome, essentially remaining a semi-childlike guy throughout his life.

The basement I am not quite sure about, but it is tempting to think of it as Jake's subconscious, a part of his psyche which he may have repeatedly tried to enter in the past to find out what was wrong with him (hence the scratches) or may have since taped up and locked (hence the selotape on the door) because it is too painful to confront the truths of his life. In the basement is the revelation of who he is, beyond the fantasy that the film represents. Here is the fact that the paintings his "girlfriend" claimed to have painted are in fact his own, a product of his own repressed side, or his anima, an ambition he never had the courage or willpower to pursue, a memory of a time he was young enough to do so now repressed. Here is the brutal fact of his life, which he has tried his best to distract himself from, namely that he is an elderly janitor living alone (e.g., the succubus pulling the janitor's uniforms out of the washing machine).

We then leave this house, Jake having paid one last visit to his parents, recalled them at various stages of their lives, reminded himself that he wasn't all bad considering he cared for his mother and father late in life, recalling the family dog, his old childhood photos, his bedroom, etc. They drive to a dairy queen-esque place in the middle of the night, in the middle of a snowstorm, and this I believe represents a few things. The first is that this is a place Jake always thought about bringing a date, but never did; maybe it was the local place where sweethearts came to hang out (later on, Jake finds a garbage can full to the brim with empty cups from that dairy queen, suggesting he has revisited this romantic date fantasy many times). Second it is an opportunity to see how Jake communicated with people outside his family, including the popular succubi (whose faces he can't remember from childhood, so he simply uses the faces of succubi at the highschool where he is a janitor), and also a shy succubus who may have showed some sympathy to him. Again, due to the nature of the movie, and the blurred boundaries between Jake and those he imagines being close to, I believe that the rather shy succubus who serves his girlfriend is both a memory of Jake himself in highschool (hence the matching skin rashses) and also maybe a succubus he himself overlooked or was too shy to talk to, someone nice. This succubus says to the girlfriend that they don't have to "go forward", meaning that unlike other romantic fantasies where Jake has stopped at this Dairy Queen, this succubus knows there is something amiss, this succubus being a small compassionate aspect of Jake's personality which does not want him to kill himself, but she nevertheless wishes them luck as Jake makes the final journey to his death.

The highschool serves both as the literal workplace where Jake has served for presumably decades, as a reservoir of memories (in the sense that when one looks back to one's youth, the school inevitably looms large), and also a place where Jake both literally and psychologically returns to on a regular basis. When Bruce Springsteen began driving to his childhood every night while depressed, a psychologist told him that it was his unconscious mind yearning and perhaps naively believing that he could go back in time and change what happened here. The same applies here as Jake pulls up outside the symbol of his youth, a point in time when life was ahead of him instead of behind him, a journey he has obviously made in his imagination hundreds of times considering the aforementioned garbage can full of ice cream cups. Here in the car (a nice shot from above here from Kaufman IMO references the movie poster for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but rather than two lovers being beside one another near a crack in the ice suggesting a cracked or damaged psyche, the car itself occupies the position of the crack in the ice - i.e., the damaged psyche - while the place where Joel and Clementine lay is now symbolically bare) we see Jake and the succubus kiss one another for the first (and last time). This is Jake's last imagined kiss, and also the symbolic union of his anima and animus, the union also of those two parts of his psyche which are contesting the notion whether or not he should kill himself. An agreement has been made, a decision made, and there is no going back now for Jake, no more debating whether or not he is going to kill himself. When the succubus leaves the car and finds it locked upon trying to re-enter, it is symbolic of this final decision. She can now only enjoy the final few moments before suicide.

Inside the school she hides from the janitor who is mopping up, the janitor being both the literal embodiment of Jake in real life at his job after school, but also Jake mopping up his memories, cleaning his tortured mind before finally putting himself down. The janitor discovers the succubus, who is no longer scared and who for a few moments becomes the embodiment of a specific succubus who Jake has thought about all this time, a succubus he met briefly at a quiz night but didn't have the courage to ask out. Jake imagines what the succubus may think about him at this stage of her life so many decades later, and the girlfriend voices these thoughts and he accepts that realistically she probably hasn't thought about him once since then. There is a final dream scene, now detached from Jake's own experience, suggesting it is a kind of fevered, disembodied dream, where he dances through life with an idealised succubus, proposes to her, etc, and this dream is then interrupted by a sinister janitorial figure who fights to the death with the imagined version of Jake. These are the very last moments of Jake's psyche as his real-life character almost freezes to death in his truck and then ambles into the school one final time to stab himself to death.

I really enjoyed this movie.


Thanks for the detailed breakdown of the movie, it makes a lot more sense. I still have a few questions, though, mainly how it seemed like there were multiple points where Jake was being made to seem like an abusive boyfriend, even to the point of the young succubus herself talking aloud in the car about how he isn't a monster and doesn't beat her. He has all of these little qualities that make me think it's intentional, like how he corrects her, dismisses her, and the whole "baby it's cold outside" scene. What's the deal with that?


No problem, and this is just my interpretation so it's not objectively correct.

The abusive or controlling boyfriend aspect of the relationship can be interpreted in a couple of ways. The first is that if the succubus represents in part Jake's anima, or a part of his psyche which he repressed most of his life (e.g., his artistic side, his romantic side) then his behaviour towards her can't be portrayed as wholesome and gentle, because that is not how he treated himself. An example is his behaviour at the dinner table, where he regressed somewhat to being a rather moody, autistic son and he controls what his girlfriend says by nodding at her to allow her to speak etc.

One theme which isn't as present in the book, but which I think is a good idea for Kaufman to explore further in the movie, is the idea of an idealised succubus, i.e., a figment of Jake's imagination, coming to realise she is dependent on him for her existence and trying to break free from that as any reasonable succubus would. An example of this is also found in the novel The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace, where the protagonist of the novel (Lenore Beadsman) finds herself in a relationship with the controlling Dick Vigorous, a book publisher and writer, and this control is reflected in the idea that the author himself writing the story is controlling her, which is a kind of post-modern plot technique that Kaufman himself enjoys a lot (as is evident in his other movies). So the Baby It's Cold Outside argument / disagreement is the succubus both trying to make it clear how unhealthy it is for Jake to simply spend his entire life controlling these idealised succubi in his imagination, but also in my opinion the succubus trying to rebel against what at this point in the movie is the approaching decision that Jake (the elderly man) is going to kill himself. So when she says again that she wants to go home, and Jake says "to the farm?" her look of horror and insistence that it is to the city she wants to return, to *her* life, is both the plea of an imagined, idealised girlfriend to escape the romantic fantasies of a lonely perhaps rather creepy guy, and also a last-ditch effort from a part of Jake's psyche to escape his decision to commit suicide.

Not sure if that makes sense or not. Basically, it is important for both the novelist (Iain Reid) and Kaufman to make it clear that Jake the elderly janitor is by no means a perfect, sweet guy. He can be difficult, overbearing, controlling, and so on, even if he is also very shy, sensitive, caring and full of regret.

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