In the Dark

Caution: Allegory Ahead

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michel Gondry
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Distributed by Focus Features

The Return (Vozvrashcheniye)
Produced by Ren Film
Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
Screenplay by Vladimir Moiseyenko and Aleksandr Novototsky
Distributed by Kino International

Allegory is a tricky undertaking.  Its practitioners must conceal at first what they mean to reveal at last.  If their story is too obvious, their audience is deprived of the pleasure of discovery.  If too cryptic, its design may disappear beneath the surface of its plot.  Striking the balance is everything, as demonstrated by the two films under review this month.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was scripted by Charlie Kaufman, who is currently America’s allegorist extraordinaire, a status he earned with Being John Malkovich in 1999.  Conceived by Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze, Malkovich is an exceedingly clever, if finally lightweight, meditation on the withering of personal identity in the age of celebrity worship.  Teaming with Jonze once more in 2001, Kaufman wrote Adaptation, consolidating his fame among the cognoscenti with a skillfully deployed postmodern conceit.  He inserted himself as a character into the film, which was...

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