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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was, for the most part, easier to understand than I expected. But there's one thing that bothers me. There were a few shots of Joel going into the clinic to have his memory erased in a professional-looking white machine. Then, for most of the film he was in one of the technicians' homes being erased by a jury-rigged machine. What's happening here, and why did he opt to have it erased outside the clinic in the first place?

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It seems that the process requires two steps

First, the doctor needs to find the memories - he was looking which parts of the brain will be triggered by the memories (which is why the patients need to talk about the person/thing they want to forget). This is done in the doctor's office.

Then the second part is the erasing the memories itself, which is done during sleep and it can be done by a simple technician

[Dr Mierzwiak in his office during the day] This is Stan Fink, one of our most skilled and experienced technicians. He'll be handling your case tonight.

We'll start here. You and I will chat a little. I'll tape record our session, if you don't mind, and we'll get a sense of the memory you wish to erase. Okay?

We'll start with your most recent memories and go backwards -- more or less. There is an emotional core to each of our memories -- As we eradicate this core, it starts its degradation process -- By the time you wake up in the morning, all memories we've targeted will have withered and disappeared. As in a dream upon waking

Well, we're going to create a map of your brain [...] So, let's get started -- If we want to get the procedure underway tonight, we have some work to do.

Stan pulls out a potato dressed as a Vegas showgirl. Joel studies it. The machines register his response. Stan pulls out a coffee mug with a photo of Clementine printed on it. Joel looks at the cup. The machines record his reaction.

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