Synecdoche, New York and the Problem of Writing Realism

Taipei Writers Group

Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the content of the film Synecdoche, New York, including many plot details.

I recently watched for the first time and fell in love with Charlie Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York. The film is heavily layered with themes, but one which stands out to me on each repeated viewing is the difficulty of creating a “true-to-life” work of art.Throughout the film playwright Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) struggles to make good use of his MacArthur Fellowship and create a stage play which will be a “piece of brutal realism and honesty.” Initially, Cotard focuses on coaching his actors to realistically convey the emotions and daily struggles of their characters, but over the course of the film his vision expands as he strives to create a perfect reflection of the real world within his expansive warehouse set, complete with doppelganger actors playing himself, his family and…

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