directors Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Charlie Kaufman’s brand of bleak, self-loathing misanthropic surrealism takes on new form in Anomalisa, the form of meticulously detailed stop-motion animation. It’s adapted from a play of Kaufman’s from a decade earlier, a play with a staging equally unique but utterly different from the film. The key points that remain the same, apparently, are the script itself and the three person cast of David Thewlis as Michael Stone, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa, and Tom Noonan as everybody else in the world.
Michael Stone’s life is so bland and banal that everyone speaks in the exact same voice, from his taxi driver to his wife to his child to his waitress. That is until he meets Lisa, the one person different in the world. He falls in love with her, they make love, plan to escape the world,…that is, until her voice starts to take on the tone of everyone else as her words reflect the same mundanity of everyone else, and the robotic nature of humanity is revealed yet again.
Kaufman draws this world view from an actual syndrome, the Fregoli delusion, in which a person perceives all others as a singularity and source of deception. It’s even the name of the hotel at which Stone stays in his visit to Cincinnati.
I’ve always found Kaufman’s work interesting and often poignant, but also very depressing. It’s a depressing world view, not one with which I necessarily argue, but depressing nonetheless.
I think it’s somewhat interesting, and I’ll have to look into this, that this is an animated film by a director who is not an animator. Kaufman shares directorial title with Duke Johnson here, which is more than fair. The other films that immediately come to mind of this sort are Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Martin Rosen’s Watership Down (1978) and The Plague Dogs (1982). I’ll have to think on this a bit more. It’s either quite unusual or perhaps very usual. Who knows?