Exploring Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York”: A Philosophical Analysis




“There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something, is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size.”

— Susan Orleans, Adaptation (written by Charlie Kaufman)

I’ve wrestled near-tirelessly with this analysis, as Synecdoche, New York is a unique beast. Standard film analysis won’t do, and far more capable minds have already broken down the film’s narrative, thematic, and technical components. This left me a little lost.

Should I discuss the film’s merits on a technical level? Should I address themes and how they are tackled via visual and narrative motifs? How much backstory should I present, or withhold? Should I focus on the unique structure of the film, which plays with our concept of time and how it is perceived as we age?

At the end of the day, I decided to throw my hands in the air and declare, “Fuck it!” What interests me most about the film — what I feel really makes it one of the most important films of modern cinema — is the philosophy at its core. After all, the conceit behind Synecdoche, New York is what endears the film to me over any other. It is as good a subject for analysis as any of the myriad options at my disposal.

I take for granted that you have seen the film prior to reading this. As such, I will not be providing a synopsis. I will be referring to characters as events as if you are already familiar with them. Should you have stumbled upon this and have yet to see the film, you can buy it via iTunes, Amazon.com, and elsewhere. Hell, you can probably torrent it.

I would also like to take a moment to send a shoutout to Mick over at Being Charlie Kaufman for sharing this piece with his audience. I love the site, and it means a lot to me. I cannot thank you enough! Any one looking for a wealth of information on Charlie Kaufman and his work, BCK is your best bet. It’s a veritable treasure trove.

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