I've got post ideas for some of the deeper themes of Synecdoche, NY, but figured it might be more fun to open debate on one of the possibly sillier themes. Synecdoche is obviously a movie about the "small horrors", the horrors that occur to a person naturally through the course of decay. Decay is an obvious, deep theme of the movie. The film was always meant to be that sort of a horror film, as from this Synecdoche interview at AICN:

...what happened was that Spike [Jonze] and I originally were approached by Sony to do... to do a horror movie, and we talked about ideas and we wanted to do something that sort of wasn't attached to the genre notion of horror, and so we were talking about things that are scary in the real world, and in our lives...

I think that perhaps the truly amazing part of Synecdoche is that it also merits the debate over whether or not the movie also contains large horrors. The movie wraps us up in all of the small horrors, but then leaves enough ambiguity if you start to wonder about what is happening at a larger level that there is certainly room for interpretation. I shall provide one interpretation, what I consider a "silly" interpretation and I certainly have very little idea about its overall validity, but it is a fascinating angle of the film to talk about: I think that Synecdoche is "secretly" a movie about a Zombie Apocalypse, and if it is, well then I think it may truly be a hallmark film for Zombie Apocalypse films.

First of all, I think its important to start from the realization that the point of view of the film is largely Caden's, and even when Caden is not directly involved in a scene (and I know of only one important scene where that is the case), his (and his second's) shadow looms large over the picture. I very much feel that Synecdoche is just about the closest film I've seen get to a first person novel's perspective, and much more importantly: an unreliable first person narrative. Secondly, and related to the concept of an unreliable first person narrative: Charlie Kaufman continues to suggest that the more surreal elements of the film should be examined as serious or true to the film's reality (albeit, perhaps only to Caden himself) rather than deeply metaphorical or even facetious.

I posit in this theory of mine, that much of the more fantastical elements of the film may be examined as coping mechanisms of Caden's mind upon trying to parse larger and deeper horrors. There is a running 'virus' thread through the film ("infectious diseases in cattle"), and it is my impression that the deep horror ravaging New York City through at least the second half of the film is a Zombie outbreak, filtered through Caden's tunnel vision of the world at large.

If that is indeed the case, I cannot think of any other film that so dramatically skews the perception of both the audience and the protagonist that we get within throwing distance of real psychological breakdown from real humor. Imagine if I Am Legend had Will Smith's mannequin externalizations actually talking back to him, if his spiral to deeper insanity left the audience questioning their own experiences of the events. I've got a feeling that Synecdoche is currently the closest film to just that.

Here's a possible timeline (possible spoilers, watch the movie first for the second time, if you haven't already) that I've concocted:

Certainly those are the important keys to the Zombie theory, and other dangling ideas (perhaps Olive's disease is related to the Zombie Virus, perhaps the psychiatrist was experiencing an early variant, perhaps even some of Caden's own decay is related in some fashion). Certainly the film is ambiguous enough that this is just one interpretation of events.

It's also, perhaps, tenuous that the disaster afflicting New York is in fact Zombies or a Zombie-like plague. I can only offer the brief fly by of 'flesh eating virus' as reason enough to prefer a Zombie interpretation over other similar apocalyptic occurrences. With the recent popularity of Zombie films, I think that whether or not the 'large horror' of the film is a Zombie Apocalypse the film offers a particularly strong comparison to recent Zombie films.

I'm curious if anyone else finds the Zombie Theory interesting.