“When you’re a kid, time moves so slowly because you are always thinking, “when is Summer coming?” or “when’s Christmas?”, but as an adult, it goes so incredibly fast. [Synedoche, New York] deals with that in such an imaginative, frightening way.”

– Jennifer Jason Leigh

Time can slip through our fingers. Friday flows into Monday, and last week’s Tuesday suddenly feels like a lifetime ago. Before you know it, you’ll be dead and forgotten – a fear everyone has felt at one time or another. This uncomfortable topic is raised in Synecdoche, New York, where we follow the desperate theater director Caden (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Through a sudden realization of his own mortality, he wants to reduce his life to its essence. He embarks on a megalomaniac project, an ever-expanding magnum opus in which the line between reality and fiction becomes blurred.

Charlie Kaufman was previously best known as a screenwriter for Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation. All films with personal subjects, existential issues and surreal story techniques. Kaufman maintains this unique approach in his self-written directorial debut, the result being a multi-layered film. Just as Caden’s play is the mirror of his life, so the film is the mirror palace of Kaufman’s mind. The angles are many, the reflections infinite.

The great thing about film is that it allows us to examine our feelings in a cathartic way. In my opinion, this recognition does not only have to be scary but can also provide much-needed reflection. Synecdoche, New York is pre-eminently a film that invites this.


The film is introduced by Dr. Steven Willemsen, narratologist at the University of Groningen. He will tell us about Kaufman, this (way too) ambitious film, and its slow (re)appreciation.