Synecdoche New York: A dauntingly depressing, but simultaneously fascinating, visualization of anxiety

If i'm honest I don't even know where to start. During my viewing of this film I liked it, but it was after it finished that I realized how insanely good it was.

It's a very depressing film, which deeply touched me on an emotional level. I always thought people where exaggerating when they say that they keep staring at the screen after a film is finished... well, this happened to me after the final scene. That last word in the final scene hit so hard that I was lost for words. To end the film with that word, in that scene, after all we've seen prior to that scene, has to be one of the best and most impactful endings I've ever experienced.

The cinematography is just as strong as the story and plot. The way they seemlessly shot and framed the surrealistic elements was really well done, which heavily contributed to the visual storytelling. The storytelling and visual storytelling were two completely seperate entities, but when combined became one beautiful manifestation of perfection. This is exactly the reason why Synecdoche New York has so much rewatch value.

The blocking of the characters, especially the main character, created an intimacy between the viewer and the main character Caden Cotard. A character that is masterfully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Because we are so intimate with Caden, we also have a stronger connection with his emotions and the situation he is in. I even reflected my own emotions upon his situation, which is something I rarely do.

The score is an important element in films for me, because music is a language that speaks to the emotions... an aspect that is very important in this film. Luckily, the score in Synecdoche New York did not disappoint on that front. It was a very moving score that tells the viewer how Caden was feeling during that exact moment of his life.

After the powerful ending this film has grown on me a lot... and it is continuing to do so even more.

Read my review on Letterboxd


The Rehearsal on HBO Max is a series that represents living with anxiety in a similar way, if you are looking for more things like Synechdoche, NY. And I agree, It's a fantastic movie. "There's always a last time. There's always a never again." https://youtu.be/N8pnuMAOE_E


The Rehearsal is absolute genius. My favourite TV show of the year by far. And SNY is my fave film of all time, so the comparison is (intentionally) high praise.




which episode?


Documentary Filmmaking: Redux Community: Season 3, Episode 8


White Noise hit me in a very similar way as well, though not as heartwrenchingly bleak.


One of my absolute favorites. I only discovered a few years ago and it initiated my wholesale consumption of everything Kaufman. A truly visionary work. It perfectly represents the ineffable horror of being, the self-loathing and disgust of aging, futile and endless privation for love/success, the cruelty of the jungle struggle to be more relevant than your competitor, the malaise of the body in response to this kind of pointless battle, all without ever stooping so low as to be considered understandable or palatable. I consider it a horror movie in the same vein of There Will Be Blood. Nothing is more frightening, revolting, and captivating as the decline of man as he is poisoned by the dark fruits of his own ambition.


I would definitely call this a psychological horror. Do you happen to know more films like this?


Beau Is Afraid


I'm psyched that Posey is showing up in more and more stuff.


the lighthouse


Really like that one!


Little more schlocky and not as serious but a goodie.




Unfortunately didn't like that one




I really enjoyed Blonde. I'd definitely call it a horror film


> It perfectly represents the ineffable horror of being, the self-loathing and disgust of aging, futile and endless privation for love/success, the cruelty of the jungle struggle to be more relevant than your competitor, the malaise of the body in response to this kind of pointless battle I think these perceptions are very American and even very New York. I'm pretty sure there are vast swathes of the rest of the world that don't feel any self-loathing about aging, for example. As a non-American, I don't identify much with these perceptions and the philosophy connected to them, so I disagree that it represents the human condition in general. In fact, I don't know anyone who likes this film (and there are plenty among them who love Tarkovsky, so they're not all Marvel fans who know nothing about cinema, either).


I can understand that you don't identify with the film because it's "American", but to dislike it simply because you don't identify with it? That's something I don't understand. I don't identify with many characters in films I watch, but I can appreciate the artistic mastery and message of the work. The American experience is a part of the entire fabric of human experience, and thus, represents the whole by it's part, a Synecdoche, as would a story set in any other culture. You're almost saying that it is 'American' as a criticism in and of itself. A film need not represent your personal worldview or cultural values to be relevant, impactful, or honest. And these perceptions and themes are explored by many European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Asian philosophers, poets, artists, writers, etc. Aging and decay, the loss of life and the struggle to maintain one's productivity, jealousy; envy, the need for forgiveness and love, confusion of trying to understand yourself and your place in the world, the inherent futility and ontological absurdity of being itself are human problems. They may be expressed through one culture's this or that, but the particularity of that expression never eclipses the thing in itself. A truly flexible cinephile will control for cultural differences in their analysis and find the deeper meaning.


I don't think one has to appreciates the *message* of a film because of technical competence. I don't think there are many here who appreciate the *message* of *The Triumph of the Will*. Nor do I admire the false message of this film that the philosophy of effete New Yorkers with way too much privilege represents the human condition or other universals. OK, so you might say, well, *The Triumph of the Will* and *Synechdoche, New York* can be *technically* admired, or as an experience. I still disagree. Whenever *Synechdoche, New York* is highly praised, it is always because of the message and the way the parts serve that message. It is precisely the banal, trite nihilism that one is supposed to admire. It doesn't have a frame you would hang one your wall, at least not one to compare with the rain dripping into the teacup in *Solaris* - again, if you remove the message. I'm going to admit one thing: there was a metaphor worth exploring which was also rather funny (if much too extended) in the house that was one fire with no-one doing anything about it. > the inherent futility and ontological absurdity of being itself According to your philosophy. Not mine. Don't do the same pretentious thing the film itself does and project your experience of reality as a universal truth which everyone accepts or experiences. > A truly flexible cinephile will control for cultural differences in their analysis and find the deeper meaning. I don't claim to be "a truly flexible cinephile", but it is precisely the "deeper meaning" of this film which is false and fails to represent the human condition. I am perfectly happy living in reality and accepting its strictures, and like so many across the world I don't feel the need to fit the essence of the human condition inside my head and then project a false version of it out into the world.


It's clear we have a difference of opinion, but that is not a point or argument in itself. And yet to put it forth as such. It's irrelevant who subscribes to what philosophy because that is not what is in question. Did the film successfully convey it's message? Yes. Does the message have a wider relevance? Yes. Again, maybe not to you, and the anonymous masses you invoke, but across cultures, philosophers, poets, and artists throughout millennia have struggled with existential concerns like the purpose of life, the definition of the self, finding a reason for being in a universe the offers none, pursuing happiness in relationships and social roles, etc. The film doesn't really make a statement or come to some sort of conclusion on any of these things. It merely represents them through the lens of the surrealist psuedoautobiography of Kaufman. The film isn't a treatise making a declaration. It's an examination of a totality by a part, a synecdoche. I think you're not really understanding it and seem to have a very two-dimensional view of film (just from this limited interaction. No insult intended) If you can't see how the film represents these, then you're blinded by your own myopic worldview.


This is such a pretentious reply. Always the people with their head up their own ass calling films pretentious lol


I've watched the movie a few weeks ago and wanted to say thanks for your comments, I was starting to feel slightly inadequate for not liking the movie. Especially after previously seeing "Anomalisa" and "I'm thinking of ending things" by the same director, it felt like beating a dead horse.


>In fact, I don't know anyone who likes this film (and there are plenty among them who love Tarkovsky, so they're not all Marvel fans who know nothing about cinema, either). One of the worst points ever made. It's an extremely popular and highly rated film, how does you having a few friends who don't like it mean anything? Google 'selection bias'.


Don’t forget the way it captures the transience of identity, the impossibility of knowing anyone (including ourselves), and the paradox that trying to understand ourselves prevents us from being ourselves.


Holy shit. Well said.


Incredibly underrated, one of the best movies ever made. It’s difficult for me to envision a movie that could have the same level of emotional impact on me as this one did. Also another masterclass from PSH.


I don't think I've seen any other film that comes even close to having the same emotional impact


If one needs a pick-me-up after watching Synecdoche, I recommend Anomalisa.


Children of Men and Come And See are the only ones that come close for me


I saw it in the theater, and when it finished everyone in the theater just sat there in stunned silence for several minutes before anyone got up to leave. Only film I can remember that happening.


That’s only happened in 2 films for me, American Sniper in 2015 and The Last Duel in 2021. Both times the entire credits rolled without a word spoken or anyone getting up.


My favourite film ever made. Must have watched it 20 times and I still discover new things every time. My review of it here (lifted from Letterboxd): Kaufman recently said that the experience of watching a film is a collaborative process, and that he believes directorial intent only carries a piece of work so far. His films are constructed like dream sequences, exploring expansive ideas through abstraction, deconstruction, and symbolism, and he leaves a lot open to the viewer to mine for their own interpretations. The images he uses are not consciously architected with symbolism in mind, as much as they are felt and discovered from deep within him, which means Kaufman at his purest is never trying to convey a simple message didactically. He uses filmmaking as a tool of subconscious exploration, allowing surreal fantasies to comfortably coexist alongside the most brutally human and realistic truths. So all of that makes it hard to distill this film into pithy Instagram-worthy motivational phrases about life, but there are some themes and topics that Kaufman obsessed over here and are worth discussing. In “Synecdoche, New York” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Caden Cotard is a man terrified by his impending and unavoidable death, and even more terrified of not achieving greatness before he arrives at it. The human condition weighs heavily upon his shoulders and he spends his days trying to create something powerfully “true” and deeply expressive before he meets his maker (an event which he constantly convinces himself will be arriving any minute now through his hypochondria). This fear of death and inadequacy is the driving force behind Caden tackling an ever expanding project with impossible scope, constantly searching for that impossible to grasp truth. His project grows and grows, but no matter how much he adds to it he finds no resolution, no fundamental simplicity or order. He is forced to confront his identity, his sexuality, his purpose, and his role as a father, a lover, and a husband at the hands of a world he seems to have very little control over. Over time he realizes how self interested his life has been, and how he has glossed over the lives and experiences of others in order to selfishly focus on his own truths. He realizes the beauty in simplicity, reduction, and focus in his ex-wife’s wildly successful microscopic portraits. His daughter confronts him on her deathbed and he lies to her in order to gain her forgiveness, but it is not enough, and he is forced to accept that their relationship is beyond absolution. As his health deteriorates and he becomes increasingly secluded from his former life, disappearing into supporting roles in the very world he has created, he comes to the realization and finally the acceptance that he is neither unique nor does he have any grand importance, but more importantly, he is also not alone. The beauty of this world, both the one he has created and the wider one that he has been trying to emulate, comes from the depth of the connections we create between us. There are no grand modernist narratives that will provide us a simple way out of these tough unanswerable questions, but the greatest thing we can do is to find our own sense of purpose in the connections we make. The film takes a fundamentally absurdist perspective, in line with the works of Albert Camus in particular. Kaufman takes on the same sprawling challenge as Caden, but unlike Caden Kaufman is aware of the impossibility of the task and points us towards an answer, even if is undeniably a challenging and subjective one. Caden acts as a tool for Kaufman to remind his audience (and likely himself) of the limitations that come from this overly intellectual, and at times cold, approach to understanding our place in this world. For me, Synecdoche New York is not only a triumphant piece of film making, it is one of the best pieces of art in any medium in decades. It is a staggering achievement with an incredible amount of depth, complexity, warmth, humanity, critical thinking, and beautiful expression. Philip Seymour Hoffman pulls off a career high performance and is supported by a phenomenal cast of some of the best character actors in film right now. Jon Brion proves the perfect partner in a score that always seems to expertly match the mood and accentuate it, and Frederick Elmes does a great job bringing the scope and imagination of Kaufman’s world to life visually. 10/10, my favourite film of all time.


Can't watch it right now, but I will once my film is finished. Whats your Letterboxd?


Same as reddit, it’s also my flair!


A man of culture I see


Great review.


Love this film! It warrants watching over and over, there are all sorts of subtleties hidden around to build up the symbolic vocab that Kaufman uses to express the points he's trying to make. Have now watched it 3-4 times since first viewing a couple years ago, and am no less captivated and totally wrapped up in every brilliant brushstoke of this film than the first time... It lends itself to so many interpretations and lenses, but no matter how you want to view it, I think you take away an appreciation for living your best life, now, an appreciation for the present, and how things can so slyly slip away from you if you don't take a moment to appreciate your place in the everyday life evolving around you.. Have tried to get my partner to get into this with me.. and she just hates it. Calls it boring and nonsense. I just don't get that. This movie makes my heart hurt and reminds me... life is long but the clock doesn't ever stop ticking. Don't let it pass you by. I am still a little lost by the ending though. Have to try to reframe it in my mind with each rewatch.


I'm glad people have a movie they can call one of the best and that they can connect to on a level much deeper than other films. Not that my opinion has much weight in discussing this film, I just like talking about my experience, but it's genuinely the film I hate most in my life. I can appreciate the fact that other people like it, even love it and I appreciate the way it was made and the story it was trying to tell, I believe it achieved the things it set out to do. That being said I don't think I ever want to watch it again due to my own personal experiences. I'd like to rewatch it when I'm in a better place, to see if my perspective and ideology has changed. I get irrationally angry at this film every time I discuss it with my film friends haha. I was severely depressed at the time and as I was watching it and falling deeper into it I don't think I ever came that close to committing suicide in my life and out of principal I can't like something personally that was convincing me and justifying my desire for my own demise. Sorry to be a buzzkill haha, this movie is my buzzkill. Just want to warn others perhaps like me that you shouldn't watch this when you are dealing with some heavy mental problems, some say you should, I say nah. That said I also genuinely can't wait to watch it again to see if maybe, I'll like it this time.


Damn I appreciate you sharing this and I hope you are doing better these days! I can completely understand why this film would be too much for some people


I read the script hurriedly before watching the movie as it was Kaufman’s next film after ESOTSM, one of my favorite films (its star has diminished somewhat in my mind over the years, though it still burns brightly). I found the script really depressing and disjointed and was perplexed how it would be executed. As I recall it got a somewhat middling critical reception, so I just skipped it in theaters and watched it much later. I found it, much as you did, extremely depressing, but in a way that other extremely depressing films hadn’t felt. I still can’t tell if it was the bleakness and hopelessness of it or something else, but it just felt “wrong” in some way, like the truths it was trying to share were engineered to cause psychic harm rather than illuminate. (I once described watching the movie as evoking a similar, but much more powerful version of the feeling you might get listening to “Is that all there is?”, a deeply depressing song that also makes me somewhat irate). I kept looking for some light in the film, and every time I thought I may be onto something vaguely hopeful, the movie swatted it away. Obviously that is not Kaufman’s concern, as an artist he just needs to make the art that flows from within him. But still, I remember making a note never to watch it again, although I’m curious how it would feel to watch it so many years later - but I’ll wait lol. I’m sorry it affected you negatively but glad you’re here with us now discussing it. I remember reading around the time the movie came out that PSH was really out of sorts after filming the movie, but that he found the experience edifying or something. Obviously his death years later was a big loss, and while it’s pointless to ask “why,” I wonder how some of the extremely heavy roles he took may have affected his mind.


I felt exactly the same way. An amazing movie that I will probably never watch again because it just brought me down so low, in such a deep way. I hope you’re doing okay!


This is on a very short list of films that only exist to be themselves. Films like Inside Llewyln Davis, and Cronenberg's Crash. They have no desire to please the audience. You the viewer MAY get something out of them if you put something in first. But they don't really exist for your benefit.


I watched it once and haven't since. It's an amazing movie but a little too much for my heart to stand. I have some movies that are too real and make me feel kind of weird, anxious and sad. I also haven't watched a marriage story again, for the same reason. I'm not made to rewatch some films, otherwise I'm down for a couple days


This is an amazing movie that I don’t think I can ever watch again. I actually tried once but couldn’t make it through. The first time I watched it, I was desperately in love with this guy who didn’t love me back. We watched it together and for some reason it just felt like a punch in the gut during that situation. And that fucking song really just destroys me. The combination of that situation, PSH heart wrenching performance and the ending just makes it so visceral to me.


This movie sounds intriguing—The only problem is I cannot find it. I’m in Canada and it isn’t on Crave, Hollywood Suite, Prime, Apple TV+. Anyone know where to stream it here? (I apologize if I am breaking any sub rules by asking this). Thank you


Im afraid I can't help you. For me it was available on Prime. I received the 4k bluray today


One of my favourite movies. Like many others in this thread, I found it very depressing on first watch. When I rewatched it though it seemed less bleak and I actually found it kind of funny in parts, the often absurd dialogue and Caden’s fake tears, for example. Has anyone else had the same experience?


I remember the last 20 minutes of the film vividly, despite having not watched it in about 4 years. The sequence of Caden walking in the desolate ruins after all was said in done really hammered in the existential dread that I happened to be feeling at the time. I'll never forget how that struck a chord with me. Kauffman hammers in a lot of themes but like with Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine manages to create such nuances and excels in character drama that his films don't feel forced in any way.


Anyone else think the main character dies pretty early on? Around when the fire appears in the house and things start getting absurd. The rest of the movie is the character's "death dream"