Dear Charlie Kaufman,
After an hour of thinking about what to write, I’m ready. Why I am writing this letter is because you wrote two of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation.
You’re up there with Tarkovsky, Linklater, and Noe for me, but why I write to you is because this week I came across a video of you speaking that’s stuck in my mind. It was my second time watching it. Again, I couldn’t help but feel as inspired as I did the first time I heard you speak about creating real and meaningful works of art, especially since you explicitly told the audience you wished for nothing less than that. So this is me addressing you, stating that you have moved me with your words and with your movies, but without spending postage to ship the letter. I figured this way, by leaving this letter open, I could save you the trouble of having to sift through your mailbox, while also creating the opportunity for you to find it on your own, were you to, I don’t know, someday search your name online, or something. Again, thank you.
Funny enough, your story about a writer and his twin brother, and their push and pull to adapt a literary novel into a blockbuster, actually moved me to write two other letters to myself about a year ago. It was really a part of a series of exercises Julia Cameron suggests in a book about unblocking inhibitions to self-expression. The first was a letter from my “inner writer,” the other was to my “inner writer” self. Your movie Adaptation was squarely in mind the entire time I wrote both. That’s because, normally, I would feel rather strange doing such an exercise, but because I had experienced your characters do it, it felt ok to do it myself. I guess this is what you mean by creating art that helps people feel less lonely?
Have you read any Julia Cameron by the way? I know you warn us, in your speech, against self-help. But, c’mon, what self-help books have you read? Not all are bad, right?
Also, I can’t tell you how striking it feels to see a fat balding Nicolas Cage sit before a blank page rolled into his typewriter, to hear his inner mind babble away at going to make coffee instead of writing. It’s an image that haunts me, almost, and keeps my hands on the keys.
And what about your romance film? I must share what a close friend of mine said once over some beers and laughs. She said that if on Tinder she saw a guy had listed Eternal Sunshine as his favorite movie, she would pass on him. Now, don’t feel hurt, she passed on me too, the year before, when I tried dating her. Why, I already said it is one of my favorite films, didn’t I? Anyway, I thought what she said about your film was way more cruel than any personal rejection, because, really, yours is a deeply moving film, one so sincere. But maybe folks don’t want to be sincere, they would rather wear sincerity like a badge on their Tinder page, as she was claiming, just to appear a certain way before hooking up. Whatever the case may be, I don’t think this type of showing off is so harmful. If a dude’s favorite movie literally is Eternal Sunshine, so what. Maybe my friend was too judging. What do you think?
Considering the movie, a confession. There are memories about my past that I wish I could just delete, no matter how unrealistic that is, or how potentially beneficial the memories are to who I am today—according to an “everything that happens is for a reason” line of argument. Truly, by way of romantic relationships, I am a much better lover today than yesterday, all because of the mistakes I’ve made or been a victim to. I do appreciate the final moral (I think) of the story, which is that we should make the mistake anyway.
Returning to the speech, you said something about how being authentic means creating art based on the absolute worst parts about yourself, the ones that in daily life you work so hard to hide, to change, to improve. The ones that would really stop someone from loving you.
That statement wiggled the proverbial fleshy skin of a scar on my chest. To you and to the open world, I admit that there is a particular past romance that comes to mind more often than not. It would be nice to delete that part of my life, to make it stop coming back as often as it does. But then again, wouldn’t I be less of who I am, were I to delete her like Jim Carrey does to Kate Winslet in your movie? The ex moved me to creation, to expression, to harm. And it feels good to remember the good times, even though now I have someone else so good for me that it’s almost too good to be true. But it is, it is true. I am with the woman of my dreams, a love so strong and healthy that it could never turn into a nightmare. Although . . . it, our life together, will end, at some point.
To have found her, to have this chance to marry soon, to have the most wonderful woman become a part of my life makes me realize just how lucky, some could say blessed, I am. I can tell her everything, including the occasional memory of a past love, the pain it causes. In fact, she craves for my stories. I am lucky, I am blessed. And yet, and yet, nothing lasts forever. She’s a smoker. And I’m afraid I’m going to end up like Robbin Williams in Good Will Hunting, recounting a love so perfect it felt like God had put an angel on earth just for him, only to die of cancer. That’s how I feel, honestly, that the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with is my angel on earth, but that someday she will, or I will, pass first, for whatever reason. And from that loss will come the unmovable mountain of sorrow, of having lost her forever.
Your film, however, holds me, and whispers its truth to me: “Make the mistake anyway.” We are together. For as long as we breathe, we are together.
Thank you for your art, Mr Kaufman. I look forward to seeing what you produce next. Until then, let’s keep sharing of ourselves, and nothing but.