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Maze-like Anomalisa will leave you dazzled

Film & TV

Michael Stone is in a hotel in Cincinnati. In the morning he’ll speak to a group of people about customer service. For now, he’s bored. You see, everyone around him is a robot.

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Aside from Michael (voiced by David Thewlis), who appears to be a robot, too, they all look and sound exactly the same. And despite having written a book on how to help and serve others, it seems impossible for him to relate to a single one of them.

Just as he’s really cracking up, he hears a woman’s voice down the hall, and it’s a voice that doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. So he runs down the hallway, knocking on doors trying to find the woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who belongs to the voice, and when he does, she looks unique as well.

Is this love? Were these two, so different in appearance and voice from everyone else in the world, meant to find each other?

Anomalisa was adapted from the play Francis Fregoli, both written by Charlie Kaufman (screenwriter for Being John Malkovich; Adaptation; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Synecdoche, New York).

Although he directed the movie with Duke Johnson, it’s Kaufman’s screenwriting that makes him one of the most original thinkers working in cinema.

The film is animated, allowing for the extras to look alike and sound alike more easily. But remember the scene in Being John Malkovich where everyone is John Malkovich and all they can say is “Malkovich”? Clearly he’s toyed with this idea before, however through ego rather than a mid-life crisis of identity, so there would have to be other reasons for the animation. Perhaps to simplify the theme by making the production child-like? Perhaps to freak us out with strong sex-scenes?

Whatever the reasons, the animation is both realistic and dreamy at the same time – rather Anime, really, though Anglo-centric.

In classic Kaufman style, the film isn’t laid out before the audience. It’s teased out. It’s a bit of a maze. It’s unconventional.

And when the surprise begins to dawn, you can’t get enough; you want more. And when the surprise, then, really hits, you’re left dazzled, mind-blown, talking about the film for days.

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