Here's an old interview that I don't think I've posted before. It's from the tail end of the Synecdoche press junket, and Charlie talks with Walter Chaw about some things I haven't seen him discuss before. It gets pretty deep.
FILM FREAK CENTRAL: Talk to me about the rapture of language.
CHARLIE KAUFMAN: You pick something very difficult for someone who's very tired. (laughs; long, thoughtful pause) Oh gosh. You know. Obviously I'm very interested in language, I use it in my work and I realize that... I've come to the conclusion that it isn't the thing. You know. It isn't the thing it describes. It can't really in most cases get close to the thing. I'm always trying to write in the chaos of experience as opposed to at a distance. I'm not interested in having perspective in the things that I write about--I'm interested in writing about them from where I am. Because that's always where you are. You never have perspective. You aren't really telling a story, you're never telling a story, story's what happens ten years down the line looking back.
So you begin with what you don't know?
(laughs) It's true, it's really backwards from the conventional wisdom of what you're supposed to write. You're never supposed to write about something that you don't have that distance from. It's weird. But we never live in that place from which we write about: it's always a fiction. I noticed a few years ago as I was going through a depression (voice drops) that was really serious that it was completely non-verbal. I couldn't explain it. I couldn't talk about it. The only way I knew that it wasn't happening anymore was that I could talk about it--then I could describe it and say that this was what my depression was, what it felt like. But at the same time that I could do it, I realized that it was completely unrelated to the experience of being in the middle of it, which was not in any way a verbal experience.
Does that frustrate empathy?
I was having this conversation recently with Amy Pascal at Sony, we were talking about this story that I wanted to try to find the place, even though language is used, where the language is not. I wanted to find that truth. Which is a very hard thing to do I guess because we communicate in language and just in our interactions we're limited to communicating to each other in language. I guess in that sense, I don't know if that addresses your question, but those are the kinds of things that I worry about in my writing. (Source)
And if you're still wondering what was happening in Synecdoche, New York, here's a quote where Charlie seems to address it more directly than usual: "I wanted to externalize his interior world which, I think, is what dreams do."
Thanks to Julie for this one.