Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Synecdoche, New York - Rational Interpretation

Here's the better version that i posted on http://www.movieinterpretations.com/ :

This 'interpretation' I think, is really quite simple. First off, I do not believe that this movie necessarily has some hidden theme per se. The theme really is quite clear: in the normal presentation of the movie and the character's interaction, I believe that the theme is powerfully conveyed.
However, the above 'interpretation' does not readily come across because of something that is explicitly left out--perhaps the only thing that is explicitly left out.

In short, when you physically sit down and watch the movie, the beginning of the movie is not actually the beginning.
When you physically sit down and begin the movie, imagine that the whole beginning: Olive singing, Caden waking-up, and everyone else--are already in the play that Caden gets a grant for. Later in the movie, when Caden is depicted as getting the grant, that is actually a recreation--because as i said, the movie is within the play already.

We never see when Caden ACTUALLY gets the grant.

I believe that this interpretation is proved on two counts not necessarily independent of each other:
1. At the time when Hazel buys the house--it is on fire.
Thus far, the movie presents itself as being in the 'real world'. So, when Hazel buys a burning house from a realtor, that is obviously impossible.
2. There is cell phone usage throughout the movie. This means that there is interaction between satellites and however many warehouses you want to imagine we are inside of.

In my opinion, everything opens up after this is seen. Additionally, it even allows the movie to work like we are inside of it--within one of the many warehouses like everyone else.

Perhaps this has already been presented as an interpretation, but i have not personally seen anything that resets the film's foundational beginning as being part of the play.

Hope this helps,


  1. Also,
    (slight corollary to the above interpretation)

    The above interpretation where:
    "We never see when Caden ACTUALLY gets the grant."--and that the beginning of the film is actually AFTER Caden gets the grant, is the only way it makes sense of why Sammy is following Caden from the beginning of the movie.
    When Caden goes out to get the mail and newspaper, Sammy is outside by the telephone pole watching Caden.

    A few other things:
    When Caden first opens the paper, on the front page it says: October 15th, 2005. The next flash of the paper is while Caden is flipping through it, and the screen pans down and the paper says: "News Bites - October 17th" (when Caden mentions avian flu). Then, Caden gets up to get some milk--the expiration says "October 20th"--but Caden says: "Milk's expired".
    After this--and perhaps this is the biggest jump--where the paper shows: "Vivian Malone Jones, One of the most important figures in the Civil Rights movement, the first black graduate from University of Alabama, has passed away."
    the date on the article says: "Wednesday, November 2, 2005".

    Then when Caden is shaving, the faucet pops off and hits him in the head--because it's a cheap set.

  2. Caden goes into the Opthamologists' office, and his calendar says March 2006, lol
    as i watch it more and more with this in mind it's hilarious; i really think that once you have that mechanic in place--that the beginning of the movie is within the play already--everything makes perfect sense and actually works in an objective reality.

  3. Kaufman himself said:
    "Let me make it very clear that this film is not a dream, but it does have a dreamlike logic. You can start to fly in a dream and in the dream it's just, 'Oh yeah, I can fly'—it's not like what your reaction would be in the real world. So everything that happens in this movie is to be taken at face value, it's what's happening. It's okay that it doesn't happen in real life—it's a movie."

    I think this is essentially meaning that it's ok that no one has necessarily made a warehouse where they made a smaller version of the world/city inside, etcetera--it's a movie.
    However, that is what is depicted at face value, and that is what is happening. When fitting in the last piece, which is not explicitly depicted--that if Caden got the grant before the film began--then everything falls neatly into place.
    Everyone's whole lives can actually be lived out--expressed on that epic scale--just as is depicted in the movie.

  4. does seeing the film like this really make a difference, though? can't any film be seen as a play? doesn't this simply draw out attention to the nature of representation? or would the fact that self-referentiality plays a big role in the movie allow us to make the point that this interpretation is specific to synecdoche, and not universal?

    1. Yes, I think it does make a difference.
      As you said secondly, which i agree with, it is the self-referentiality of Synecdoche that makes utilizing this interpretation beneficial.
      Check it out for yourself, I REAAAALLY enjoy watching the movie utilizing this interpretation. I can't get lost, and those scenes that appear like 'deconstruction', (like when there's all the cast in the warehouse, and when they put the ear pieces in for example), you're able to understand that they are depicting in the scenes a revealing of what was actually going on throughout the movie.
      It's pretty sweet,