A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman
Produced By: Rosa Tran, Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman, Dino Stamatopoulos
Written By: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Tales of human emotion, expression, desires and fortitude are tackled time and time again throughout the calendar year, only to be repeated the year after in a vicious cycle.
The problem with several of these attempted works of art that capture the pure essence of what it means to be human is exactly that – it captures humanity, except it’s fabricated, we know it’s not real.
Forget performances, they can only do so much in the illusion of reality – the rest is purely invention.
Where the essence and aura of human life comes into play best is through animation, a medium that explores an endless realm of possibilities and outcomes, but one that so often gets it right when spotlighting what it means to be human.
We see human elements within household items, animals, plants, robots and even emotions – just take a look at Disney Pixar’s back catalogue. Even in the sphere of Japanese anime, which, although utilising predominantly human subjects, ventures into the worlds of the fantastical, the absurd and the imaginative, which all too often come full circle to present as truthful a metaphor of mankind as there is.
Writer Charlie Kaufman (a literary genius in the world of the strange and left-of-centre cinematic narrative) has crafted a delightful, provocative work of art in Anomalisa, his latest picture presented entirely through stop-motion animation.
One that is not afraid to ask the hard questions about our existence, our instinctive tendencies and purpose on the earth, one man, one woman and a hotel make up the foundation for one of the most original films in quite some time.
Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) is preparing to give a speech on customer service and struggles to remain calm and collected.
Unable to deeply engage with other people and seemingly in a rut with his wife and child, David seeks temporary solitude, intending on escaping the mundane, repetitive world he must wake up and endure the following morning. In this desire being met however, Michael’s deeper circumstances begin to emerge as his loneliness and restlessness surface themselves very strongly.
Everything changes for Michael after he accidentally stumbles across Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh), a quirky, unordinary girl who is also staying at the hotel.
What Kaufman has shown in the past is that he is masterful at conjuring up a world in which only two people exist and everything else is either superfluous or totally obsolete.
What makes Anomalisa so powerful is just that, but more so due to the fact that the voice cast consists of three people, two of which only voice one character.
Tom Noonan voices every single character Lisa and Michael interact with, separating the pair from the unbearably clone-like world in which they exist – a stroke of pure romantic genius.
The craft of Anomalisa is staggeringly detailed and meticulous. When watching the picture unfold, the subtle inconsistencies within the movement and fluidity of the characters creates a rough aesthetic that works so well in understanding the production as a whole.
Although sometimes jumpy and jarring, the subtlety within certain movements is alarmingly genuine. Never are you taken out the central story, but a lot of the time you do begin to wonder in amazement as to how they were able to create such humanity and realism within puppets and a series of tiresome repositioning.
From lighting a cigarette and proceeding to smoke it, pouring a glass of wine or even syncing the voices to the correct movement and expressions on the faces, the artistry behind Anomalisa is truly fascinating and speaks volumes about those who brought the moulds to life in every sense of the word.
The spirit of Anomalisa is one of profound thought and yearning for exploration into modern culture. Dead end, bleak and ordinary, the existence of the characters is played upon with a stark intent to send a message.
A brilliantly subtle-but-obvious picture has so much to say with words and even more to say with images. It’s a miniature narrative with a powerful core that symbolises the greater meanings behind the central story.
Bold, wise, endearing and even confronting, Anomalisa is not one for the whole family, do not let the animated aesthetic trick you into thinking the kids can come along for the ride. This is an adult’s film in an adult setting in an adult life that focuses on adult issues – yet the only human beings are heard, not seen.
The art of stop-motion is one we do not often see, especially within the scope of a feature film. Anomalisa, behind its astonishing tangibly crafted style stands for so much and has so many human elements to be extracted and compartmentally observed.
Concluding in a surreal yet relatable manner and including a delicate, representative tune to carry along the concluding credits, this smaller delight is one that will hopefully be remembered as one of the more ambitious projects of the year.