Narrative Structure: Citizen Kane and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was greatly influenced by the narrative structure of Citizen Kane. Both movies are so entirely different in style and plot that a connection between the narratives did not occur to me until I was assigned to watch and analyze them together. Citizen Kane begins with the death of its title character which initiates a mystery behind his last words…Rosebud. The movie unfolds in a form of flashbacks, held together by a storyline following a journalist named Jerry Thompson. These flashbacks are told out of order and give the viewer little bits of information which add up to a revelation regarding the mystery presented in the opening scene. The flashbacks in Citizen Kane are not limited to the point of view of the person involved in the flashback and show us situations involving many different characters from Charles Foster Kane’s life.
Eternal Sunshine introduces the viewer to its main character Joel, played by Jim
Carrey in a scene that chronologically comes at the end of the story, after Joel’s memory has been erased. In essence, the film begins after the death of its main character, his memories, and also introduces us to a mystery that must be explained through a series of flashbacks. Instead of using a reporter or journalist to link these flashbacks together, like Citizen Kane, Eternal Sunshine follows subplots involving the employees working for the company that erases Joel’s mind. It becomes very apparent early on in the film that there is something off and mysterious about its opening scene due to it not fitting logically into any of the story structure we have been introduced to. The flashbacks, unlike Citizen Kane, are direct memories of Joel’s past he is reliving, all of them based around his perspective and some focusing on his ex-girlfriend Clementine, also present in all of his flashbacks. The viewer starts the movie knowing...