Did you know that Michel Gondry cut an entire character from Charlie Kaufman's original vision of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Joel's ex-girlfriend Naomi didn't make it into the final cut, and if she had, it would be easy to view the film as entirely different.
Had the scenes with Naomi remained intact, there would have been a complete shift in the audience's perception of Joel. You see, since Joel had his memory altered to remove the past two years of his life, he would have been under the impression that he had just broken up with Naomi, his ex. And it turns out, things got pretty lonely for the guy after getting his mind wiped.
Following his experimental procedure, a deleted scene shows Joel returning to Naomi for a date, and later breaking it off to pursue Clementine when fate brings them together a second time. We can really see the power of the edit below.
As Daniel Netzel explains in his latest video essay for Film Radar, "we can assume it was a relatively small window of time between reaching out to Naomi and sharing drinks with Clementine, so [that] entire scene takes on a completely different meaning. Everything that we might have perceived as Joel being shy or nervous now looks a lot like guilt."
"It's not so much about the scene itself. It's about the feeling that scene creates."
Joel's character is now fundamentally different. He is far less likable, "selfish and more impulsive than he likes to let on." A further deleted scene shows that this may not even have been the first time Joel broke it off with Naomi for Clementine.
Our understanding of Joel and Clementine's blissfully romantic relationship changes as well. The first iteration of their relationship was based off an act of betrayal. It had victims and there were consequences. This initial act of deceit would go on to affect the amount of trust present in their relationship, and that ultimately may have inspired its collapse.
'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'
This seems like a pretty important storyline to omit from the final cut, as it sheds much more light on the complex, messy circumstances that cultivated both Clementine and Joel to wipe their memories. But do we really need it? Well, thanks to some incredible editing work by Valdís Óskarsdóttir, the answer is no. The emotion lives on.
In what is an incredibly apt metaphor Netzel reminds of some of the fundamentals of editing, "It's not so much about erasing memories, as it is about erasing the emotions that are attached to those memories. It's not so much about the scene itself. It's about the feeling that scene creates."
Regardless of the fact that we never see Naomi, her effect on Joel can still be felt.
Source: Film Radar