Maciej Pradziad ’23
Charlie Kaufman’s screen adaptation of Ian Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a surreal psychological horror that explores the philosophical nature of identity, memory, and how they are shaped by our constant consumption of media. These complex themes are expertly woven throughout the entirety of the screenplay through a conversational framework between the main characters written by Kaufman and beautifully captured on camera by cinematographer Lukasz Zal. As creative as this film is in its surreality and absurdity, it isn’t a film that will appeal to most audiences; however, if given the proper attention, analysis, and patience, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a very rewarding viewing experience entirely different from any other.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things follows the story of Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) visiting her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parent’s farmhouse on an extremely snowy drive. The trip slowly starts to become nightmarish as Young Woman’s anxiety about wanting to end things with Jake becomes so intense that it lends itself to the surreal.
Although the barebones structure of the film may seem incredibly simple, screenwriter and director Kaufman uses this to his advantage as it prevents any unnecessary distractions from the complex philosophical puzzle he puts forth for the audience to solve. This is especially important as the puzzle itself is essentially impossible to solve in its entirety by design, which can be a drawback to audiences that want more answers than questions. However, I would say that the questions themselves make the screenplay more unique and riveting because the film reflects who you are at the particular moment in time you watch it. With every new viewing experience comes different answers to various questions that reflect our ever changing subjective realities and consciousness, giving the film a universal quality very much needed in today’s climate.
The cinematography by Zal is stunningly uncanny to say the least. The fact that the majority of the film is set inside Jake’s car and never becomes repetitive or monotonous is a true testament to the genius displayed by Zal within the film. This becomes especially apparent with the juxtaposition between rigid camera movements and the surreal flow of action, characters, and set as it creates a world of controlled chaos set within the mind of Young Woman—or so we think. In addition, the lighting throughout the film is extremely melancholic, whether it be warm or cold, creating an air of unnerving despair that both Young Woman and the audience can’t escape. This is further supported by the concentrated tension created through Zal’s framing as he places multiple actors into medium and close up shots with a 4:3 aspect ratio, creating an effect of suffocation and anxiety that can’t be escaped even if you tried looking elsewhere on the screen.
Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, available on Netflix, is a beautiful ode to the intricacies of the human mind, the complexities of self-identity, and the disorganized nature of memory worth experiencing to discover something new about yourself.