Charlie Kaufman

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Studio: Focus Features (released March 19)

Category: Original

Storyline: Jilted Joel (Jim Carrey) signs up to have all memories of his stormy love affair with Clementine (Kate Winslet) erased, only to change his mind in the midst of the procedure, pitching him into a struggle to hold on to his same memories of her.

About the script: Though averse to having this script seen as science fiction, Kaufman outdoes the Phillip K. Dick-inspired “Paycheck,” using a sci-fi memory-erasing premise to shine a light on serious questions about love. “You don’t see movies that show a lot of the stress of the relationship,” says Kaufman. “There’s a fantasy world that’s presented to people when they go to the movies, and life is not like that, so I set out in my screenplays to try and write something that seems real to me, or true.”

Biggest challenge: “It’s easy to tell the initial story in a five-minute sound bite,” says Kaufman. “But the practical problems of memory erasing, having this person in their memory as it’s being erased, and having the story told from the end of the relationship to the beginning … all that became very complicated.”

Breakthrough idea: Kaufman and helmer Michel Gondry decided Joel would experience his memories while asleep and be able to comment on the memories like someone who is having a lucid dream, and that he wouldn’t completely forget Clementine until he woke up in the morning. The result is a film that rewards close attention and challenges the audience to puzzle out what’s happening.

Standout scene: Joel revisits the very beginning of his relationship with Clementine, in a Montauk beach house. In a touching visual metaphor for what is happening to his memories, the beach house disintegrates and is swallowed by surf and sand.

Choice lines: Clementine, from her standard speech to a new boyfriend: “Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to make them alive, but I’m just a fucked-up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind.”

Writer’s bio: NYU grad Kaufman wrote for sitcom “Get a Life” and other TV shows before penning “Being John Malkovich,” which earned his first Oscar nomination. His second was for “Adaptation.” He also adapted “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” for helmer George Clooney.