Musings on the film ‘Synecdoche, New York’

Synecdoche, New York is the kind of film I would not normally choose to watch but, as it was part of my Cities and Cultures class, I simply had no choice. Actually, the premise itself sounds really interesting as it’s about a theatre directer who, in his desire to create a piece of art that is essentially true, creates a replica of New York in a warehouse. He populates his city with doubles of people he has seen around, people he knows, and even himself. As such, the reality of life is revealed… or that’s kinda the idea.
If I was watching this film as a casual thing, I would not have got beyond the first few minutes. The scenes are shot and jumpy, deliberately disorientating. It almost impossible to become attached to characters who are either fundamentally flawed or shown from such a skewed angle. Scenes are excruciatingly mundane or absurdly disturbing and there’s no real middle ground. It would be very easy to just stop watching.
So, from that viewpoint, I would not recommend this film at all. What I would recommend, however, is watching the last 15 minutes or so of the film. Without including spoilers it’s hard to explain the context or contents but the ending of the film is profound. I didn’t enjoy the thing but the ending had me in tears. I showed it to my mother who hadn’t watched the rest of the film. It had her in tears. There’s something vulnerable and human shown in these last few minutes, something that is lacking from the rest of the film. It’s not fun watching but if you fancy a few minutes of depression then this bit’ll do the trick!
However, as I said, this was a film that was included in one of my courses which meant that I looked at it from an academic view point as well as a casual view point. While, as a casual watcher I was totally turned off, the film provides so many interesting features that can be expanded to give deeper meaning, to explain why it feels disorientating, to do so many things. It might not be to my taste but this film is certainly a masterpiece in its own way.
If you’re interested then it’s probably worth googling some of the trivia around it but of particular interest to me:
  • The book/plays mentioned within the film – what do the themes of those texts add to the themes of the film? 
  • The use of time references within the film. Although you may not notice a progression of time, try and work out when each thing takes place and be aware it’s not so simple! The first scene has a different time/date referenced every few lines. The time in the final scene of the film is one minute on from the time of the opening scene. It’s really playing with this concept and it’s an interesting device!
  • People’s names also may give extra insight into aspects of the film.

There are loads of other things but those were aspects that I particularly enjoyed spotting, and also used in my writing on the subject!
So, while Synecdoche, New York may not have been my favourite film ever – quite the opposite – it was an interesting piece of art. And anyway, I got a really good grade writing about it so I guess I can’t complain 😉
This piece was written about a week after watching the film. I scheduled it to post after finishing the course so that I was not in a position of accidentally plagiarising myself if called upon to write around the piece!

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