Serious Reading: Synecdoche, New York.

June, 2014

I’m sitting here, pissed off  - starting to watch Synedoche, a movie I haven’t seen in a while. It’s been ages since I’ve been writing, and I feel like the momentum I had at the start of semester is completely gone. [redacted] That’ll change - I hope. 

Right now the last thing I feel like doing is writing about how the many aspects of childlike play I have engaged with this semester have affected process, but I really have to sit down and do it. This is a real problem with me. I leave everything til the last minute. 


Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche is now looking at his own stool. God  — I feel like I’m doing that with all this aggregation process. Now he’s with his wife - they’re in real trouble and they’re at a psychologist. His wife wishes he was dead. What a fucking nightmare.



“I don’t know why I make it so complicated.”

“That’s what you do.”

I think I have to read over my last reflective practice statement to make this make sense. I feel like I went off the deep end there. I started singing everything, saying everything poetically, and making promises I can’t keep. 

A house is on fire. A real estate agent is walking through a  prospective tenant. 

“I like it, I do - I’m just really concerned about dying in the fire.”

Maybe this whole thing is me trying to not concentrate on one thing. Perhaps this fluttering between all the things, all the time, never putting myself down on one thing - that’s the thing. Or not. Or it is. Even right now I’m looking at my words and trying to be clever about the things I put down. Like “Flutter.”  Pick up on that, reader - note it down. Make sense of it. Note it down in your memories of me. 


“I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know. We’ll talk when I get back. Okay?”

Am I just going to quote this whole film? 

“I’m lonely.”

“I’m hurt.”

“Yes? And?”

“I think Adele’s right when she says I’m not doing anything real.”

“I’m afraid of dying, and I want to do something important whilst I’m still here.”

Edward Caden says it’ll change my life. If I come to university. If I come and be part of this Masters programme I can probably change my life. 

I’ve been seeing time strangely too, bout time I told you that. I feel like I’m in a spiral headed upwards. This is my second time round the same time corridor, and I’m seeing people I knew before embodied in those around me. I’m interacting with them differently now, if that matters.

I actually feel like I’ve lost the most passionate years of my life. Others have found the thermals and popped up above the clouds, and I’ve collapsed, repeating a cycle of time and living in a house of fire, and maybe all the dreams that circle through the university are false and empty. 

“Because I feel - a longing.”

Adele in the magazine now. Caden’s sick and he sees imagined advertisements for Adele’s happier life. Much happier without him. 

Now he’s getting a grant. 

“..finally put my real self into something.” 

“The idea is to do a massive theatre piece. Uncompromising. Honest.”

He’s talking now about the possibility of putting this into the play. 

The Mikveh.

Perhaps this it for me. The turgid difficulty of the making. Perhaps all these little sketch experiences that I’ve been building are actually frustrating little anxieties. 

“I’ve been thinking a lot about dying lately…” “…that’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death.”

Synecdoche is the story of one man’s fight with his health, his family, and his creative spirit. Now he’s fighting for his life in Germany. Ugh - That feels so wrong. I’m suddenly reminded of Wolfenstein 3D. He walks around the set now, with hundreds of spinning plates. ( I just wrote platers, but corrected it to plates.)

Why did they have to write 3D on the end of everything? - I guess we’re about to see that again with VR. I can’t wait for the slew of VR titles. Actually I think there’ll be a real good thing there. Maybe I’ll even make something in VR one day. 

“My father died.”

Most people consider the role I play to be something along the lines of chaos. Chaotic Neutral. Chaotic Evil. What is wrong with exploring the possibility space outside of definition? Mind you, when it comes to formalities I can’t forget the fear. Not too long ago I stared into the eyes of a mother who lost a son - whom I knew, and had no words to say, not even those shitty formalities. 

Caden’s daughter’s diary in Synedoche exists as a beautiful temporality. So many little touches here that resonate with me.  Now he’s here in..

“I won’t settle for anything less than the brutal truth. Brutal.”

“When are we getting an audience in here? It’s been seventeen years.”

All these little post it notes. You keep biting your tongue.  


Interviewing for participants now. The guy who follows him. Hire me, and you’ll see who you truly are. Man as a mirror.

He’s the voice, this weird fella - of his own mind. He gives him an address - so he can see him lose even more of himself. For research.

The blimps that fly around the world are really strange. All those outside things that are happening whilst you’re on a project are so outside, you couldn’t care less. There were three solar flares the other day, I heard about them from Don before my extremely messy presentation. If the end of the world happened right now how would I care? Stuck up my own ass with this thing. This whole thing.

When we design, things bloom out of control. So many rooms get unexplored, and we have a carve a singular path through any thing. You might never see all of it. I don’t want you to replay it to get a 100% ruin. Before you start to think that ruin was a clever turn of phrase on my part, it was a complete accident, and auto-suggested by this writing software. 

At any point in Synecdoche - the stage is never apparent or fully realised, continuously fourth wall breaking. Banal things are just happening, perhaps all in favour of revealing the stage in one continuous unfolding. But I don’t even want to draw attention to the fact this is a similarity in the ‘creative process’ - continuous revealing, because doing so feels like I’ve missed the point. 

Caden’s mother is dead now too. 

All this watching other people develop, fly off and and fall in love and die can get tiring. 

That feels like a tweet. I might just send that off to my public side.

“Can you understand loneliness?”

“I dunno - I feel okay mostly. Fucking might help.”

Pretty Caden. Small kindnesses. 

That really is one of the most touching moments for me in the whole film.

If I could put all of myself in - all the duplicities and complexifications then maybe I can finish this project. But Synedoche seems to stage an unfinished finished project. One of the verb usages of ‘project’ considering the throwing forward of the action. Casting forward, impelling movement. I had stopped.

“He lives in a half world between stasis and half-stasis. Time and chronology is confused. Up until recently he’s strived valiantly to make sense of his situation, but recently he’s turned to stone.”

Now it’s the preacher scene, a mock funeral now - saying surprising things that resonate with Caden and us. 

“And the truth is - I feel so angry, and I feel so sad.”

“No one wants to hear my misery cause everyone has their own.”


“Fuck everybody.”

Everyone’s disappointing - when you know someone.

Why are we all crying in the dark? It’s all disappointing. 

I can’t even write clearly about the last part of this movie since I’m so invested in it.


I uncontrollably let out a singular sob in the fading whiteness and darkness as the word is said and quickly muffle it so that noone hears it.  


Morning now. A peaceful cat is sleeping next to me. I’ve made my excuses and now have removed this particular abject experience from my throat and now can focus on the rest of the documentation. Hopefully that’s enough.

Phil James