Anomalisa, directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson is perhaps the most human film. This is a film that digs deep down into the little broken idiosyncrasies of a person and then pulls them all out and puts them on show. I haven’t experienced a film like Anomalisa before and what makes it all the more interesting is that it is a stop motion animated film with very much its own look and style. Anomalisa planted itself firmly in my memory, and I think it’s going to stay there for a while.
The story of Anomalisa is about Michael Stone – voiced by David Thewlis – a man who feels trapped in the constant mundanity of life. Everything is boring, predictable and no one has anything interesting to say. So when Michael meets someone who is wholly original – Lisa Hesselman, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. He makes sure that he never has to live out the lonely mundanity of life by himself anymore and embarks on a journey to bring life back into his.
So as you might expect from a Charlie Kaufman film, things are not simple nor are they easy to pick up and fully understand. What this meant for me at the beginning of the film was that I felt completely lost and a little confused. For some of the first act of the film I was continuously debating in my head whether I was enjoying/understanding the point of the film. That thankfully didn’t last, as when things started to make more sense and I felt like I was finally a part of what the film was trying to do, I was fully in.
That dropping you in to what feels like the middle of a story and leaving you to regain your bearings by yourself is an interesting thing to do – especially when you consider the unconventional nature of Anomalisa. But honestly, when I look back on it, it makes total sense. Yes at the time I doubted the enjoy-ability of the film but when it was all said and done it actually made for a more rewarding watching experience.
In fact, that point where it did start to click in my head and I started to understand what the film was doing, was almost like a perfect moment of clarity. I haven’t experienced a moment like that in a film before (it least I’m pretty sure I haven’t). I was lost and not sure if I was enjoying myself, and then in the click of a finger, it all opened up to me and I was a part of what the film was driving towards. It really is something that is hard to explain but Anomalisa is a film that just took its time and then when it was ready it took over all of my attention and focused it solely on it.
The difficult thing about this review is that I can’t go into any real detail about major aspects of the film as it would certainly spoil the film. So when I say that I was confused by elements and that I didn’t at first get what the film was going for – I unfortunately can’t really explain what those elements were or what context they were occurring in. Anomalisa is a film where (I think at least) if you know all its twists and turns before the film has been able to slowly reveal them to you, then you might not feel as involved or rewarded as you will if you go in blind. So I’m going to avoid crucial details, so as to not ruin it for anyone who is reading this before seeing the film. For those of you who have seen it… well I think you would agree that it would be unfair of me to give away the secrets of Anomalisa.
What I can and want to dive into is the raw, human reality of this film. Anomalisa is an animated film, yet somehow it feels more real and more honest than some films that are actually filled with real life actors and their emotionally filled faces. This is an animated film, yet after the first few minutes of watching it, it stopped being one. I stopped seeing the stop-motion miniatures and the uncanny-valley effect of their faces and I began to just see deeply emotional characters who suffered from the same little messed up idiosyncrasies as everyday people do. It is strange, but even stranger is just how life-like it all becomes. There will of course be that part of your brain that’s screaming, “THEY’RE NOT REAL”. But another part will choose to ignore it and inevitably you’ll slide into the reality of Anomalisa.
I must also stress just how wonderful and different the animation is in this film. The film is beautiful and pulls off things, which I didn’t think were possible in stop-motion. This film is a true achievement in animation and if anything stands on its own as animation worth watching, so that you can maybe try to catch it out for mistakes – I couldn’t see any but then I did stop looking after a while.
This is a film that is so different from anything else out there. I didn’t know what to expect from Anomalisa, and sure at first I wasn’t on board, but this film just works. When the credits roll and it’s time to get up and leave – Anomalisa will be fully entrenched within your memory.
I am definitely going to recommend Anomalisa – a wholly original film that just speaks to the sad truths of human existence sometimes.
I’d love to know what you thought of Anomalisa, so feel free to leave a comment down below. If you’d like to keep up with my other ramblings then perhaps either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a great end to your week.