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David Poland

By David Poland

BYOP By Request: ANOMALISA [spoilers]


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26 Responses to “BYOP By Request: ANOMALISA [spoilers]”

  1. leahnz says:

    wow like an actual whole thread (are spoiler warnings needed?)

    i’m curious about other people’s theories and interpretations of anomalisa, clearly there’s a lot going on and different ways to look at it under the surface. there have been some interesting discussions here in the past about different possible meanings/interpretations of movies like ‘the babadook’ and ‘under the skin’ so it’s illuminating to hear other people’s theories, how they may see something i missed or pieced it together to get another meaning/metaphor altogether. i’ve seen it a couple times now and my own theory (or theories, still collating) is pretty out there, so wondering what others think. i think ‘fregoli’ – the psychiatric delusion, and michael’s hotel in the story – is the main clue.

  2. PcChongor says:

    I thought the story was pretty straight forward in the sense that it was about a guy who was in love with falling in love, but was unable to ever actually be in love.

    It was easily the slowest first half of a film I’d seen all year, but the tying together of the beginning and end made the initial slog more than worth it.

  3. PcChongor says:

    And Tom Noonan deserves an Oscar nom.

  4. JS Partisan says:

    Noonan carries that movie, with just the inflection of his voice. He definitely deserves some sort of recognition for it.

  5. michael bergeron says:

    what is the toy saying in Japanese?

  6. Triple Option says:

    What are some of your theories, Leah? I saw a screening w/Kaufman, the director & producer there for a Q&A, (apologies for not looking up the names). *Spoilers* – The main character had experienced this phenomenon previously with the female he walked out on years ago. Kaufman came up with the germ of the idea after reading an article about the rare audible affliction.
    -Still spoilers*
    I really knew nothing about the film going in, only that it was stop-motion and that Kaufman had written it. It took me a few people before I caught on to everyone having the same voice. I was waiting for someone to comment on how mail sounding a female was but then recognized the voice in the next character. It actually sounded like Jimmy Fallon to me, haha.

    It was actually done as a play first. I could that but this works as a much better venue for visualizing the point/premise. The stop-motion could be a bit of a red herring. Everything shown not directly related to plot and the immediate action of the characters, (drinking a drink, opening a door, etc) seemed to have symbolic undertone. Like, wait, why are we seeing the character open a bottle of pills? What does the way he ties his shoe mean? It showed a clock- urrghh, but I don’t remember what time it says, was that important??”

    Spoilers over. Well, no, maybe ont* Interesting that you can follow a lead who turns out to be just a louse and ahole and not feel cheated for willfully going along and not directing daggers of animosity at him earlier on. Well done, but sort of a head scratcher as to why make it. Not that I needed a moral or tightly wrapped bow, but it just seemed like a lot of work to go through to have story end the way it did.

  7. palmtree says:

    Leah makes sense. At first I thought this was just the world that this story took place in. But the ending confirms that people do have distinct voices and that it was only his perception that made it seem like one person.

  8. Ray Pride says:

    A slightly silly exchange with Kaufman about the “Fregoli syndrome.” “He’s sleepwalking through a world of mass-produced luxury, designed without nuance, and then when I look up Fregoli, it might be the syndrome Michael is suffering, thinking everyone else in the world is the same. It’s there if you look it up afterward, but it isn’t like the kind of reference that would get you a “golf clap” if someone said, for instance, “synecdoche” in “Synecdoche, New York.” Kaufman: No one ever says “synecdoche” in “Synecdoche, New York.” And originally, Fregoli syndrome was not mentioned. We just couldn’t get the name of the hotel we were using, which was Millennium, which is a real hotel in Cincinnati. I had it originally under a pen name, of Francis Fregoli. So we just swapped it. He doesn’t really have that. Just metaphorically. I was trying to figure out how to do a stage play with three actors where one of them could play a lot of parts, and I had read about this. It sparked a bunch of ideas.”

  9. leahnz says:

    ugh i lost my whole comment when the page crashed/refreshed, i’ll try to reconstruct some of it:

    the auditory device wherein to Michael, everyone else has the same voice/sounds the same is fascinating because the viewer isn’t sure if it’s an affliction or a delusion, and its use as metaphor adds another layer. his fregoli delusion is most notably expressed when in his dream he tries to convince lisa that “‘they’ are all one person”, that everyone else (all with the same voice of course) in the world is one person pretending to be all the other people except for him (and now lisa).

    seeing it a second time kind of solidified my sneaking suspicion from the first viewing. i think michael exhibits symptoms of (possibly worsening?) functional schizophrenia, for instance:
    apart from his obvious auditory affliction/hallucination he’s also withdrawn and lacks emotional expression and the ability to relate to people, he hears things (hears his ex whom he abandoned read her letter out loud to him/her ‘ghost’ follows him) and sees things (hallucinates being a malfunctioning robot), he’s paranoid (‘they’ are all the same person, ‘they’ don’t want him and lisa to be together, might kill her) and has delusions of grandeur (people fawn over him, a god of customer service, they LOVE him – he even tells lisa when he says, ‘they’re all one person’ that they all ‘love’ him), he has sleep fits (restless/violent sleeper), exhibits fregoli delusion (sometimes associated with schizophrenia), plus people say things throughout such as ‘we’re here for you’, ‘we care about you’, intervention-y type language from which he runs away, etc.

    so anyway my theory is, there is no lisa, she’s the japanese doll he buys in the sex shop right after his horrible reunion with his ex. lisa the woman with whom he shares an intimate night – lisa the anomaly – is a construct of his delusional, desperate, sexually repressed mind. a few reasons for this interpretation: crucially, when the japanese doll sings at the end of the movie, the doll has JJLeigh’s voice, she is the voice of the doll, lisa has the doll’s voice. lisa has the scar in the exact same spot by her right eye where the doll is cracked/broken; when lisa is babbling on the bed about the languages she loves, she says, “i love japanese, obviously” (why obviously? there’s no previous reference to anything japan/ese between them). and super grossly, semen leaks out of the doll when the son plays with it at the end. it’s the scene right after the sex shop when michael is showering in the hotel room and his face malfunctions in the mirror, he’s in the midst of a delusion and about to take his face off when he ‘hears’ lisa’s distinctive voice in the hall outside for the first time, signalling the start of his delusion of the doll as a ‘special’ woman, which of course turns sour due to his pathology. (more stuff maybe but i think i’d have to watch it yet again and take notes or something, perhaps i should step away from the anomalisa haha)
    did anyone else have this interpretation? 😀

    just to add, the voice work by JJL, noonan and thewlis is really exceptional

  10. Ray Pride says:

    This is good. Charlie demurred two questions about the song and the automaton.

  11. leahnz says:

    ‘automaton’, damn i was wondering what the proper term for the figure is, so much more descriptive and apt than ‘doll’, thanx ray

  12. palmtree says:

    Hmmm…but doesn’t the ending (that letter) show that Lisa is a person on her own, and not just a construct. Because if I recall, in that moment Lisa’s friend had a distinct face too, so that couldn’t have been his version.

  13. leahnz says:

    i think the end is michael sitting on his stairs watching the automaton, having a further delusion imagining lisa writing him a gushy letter to praise their time together and how she cherishes it and sad she is that he dumped her, part of his delusions of grandeur, he isn’t receiving an actual letter which would more indicate something real (her friend driving the car is the same one with lisa at the fregoli so that would fit with his delusion)

  14. palmtree says:

    “(her friend driving the car is the same one with lisa at the fregoli so that would fit with his delusion)”

    Yes, but the friend in the car doesn’t have the Tom Noonan face. In the hotel, the friend does.

  15. leahnz says:

    ? the friend looks exactly the same at the end to me (she does look a little like noonan tho now that you mention it)

  16. mariamu says:

    I am loving all the theories about Michael. I do think he is mentally ill and I noticed his flat affect at times. I worked at a group home for the mentally ill for some years and started understanding some of his delusions. I do want to see it again just to pinpoint some of the background I missed the first time.

  17. leahnz says:

    glad you saw it mariamu after you commented in the other thread. some movies need to seen more than once to catch all the little details, this seems like one of those, like even the buttons on the phone are weird and seem to convey his skewed perception of reality (what was the deal with the other plane in the clouds at the beginning, like he was seeing his own plane as a double, that seems like the first clue)

  18. mariamu says:

    I noticed that about the buttons. Just another detail I will look at closer on the second run.

  19. Glamourboy says:

    Was also at a Q&A with Kaufman and although he refused to answer some questions, he did answer that there WAS a Lisa in the story. So much for that theory.

  20. leahnz says:

    or maybe kaufman’s being cagey and misdirective for people asking silly, literal questions at some press thing he has to attend when he’d probably rather be doing anything else?
    why not leave it ambiguous for the viewer, one of the great pleasures of film and particularly kaufman (yes clearly there is a lisa in the story, but is she actually real?)
    in the final shot, final line of lisa’s letter voiceover, she says in her PS that she looked up anomalisa in her japanese-englsh dictionary, and it means ‘goddess of heaven’. but anomalisa isn’t a japanese word, and why would lisa have a japanese-english dictionary to look it up, of all things? because michael is imagining her ‘letter’ to him while watching the japanese automaton.
    why go to the extent to include all these many details to suggest something if you’re kaufman. maybe there is no ‘one answer’.

  21. Ray Pride says:

    CK does disdain the obvious both with audiences and interviewers. A small Yeahh. But he’s forthcoming about other things.

  22. Ray Pride says:

    At the time of Synecdoche: However dogged and confounded Caden may be, it also seems he doesn’t have the energy for suicidal ideation. “Well, he’s a romantic. In a way. Maybe. Could be. I’m not going to say,” Kaufman says in his measured stop-start. He’s trying to create art to the exclusion of an unsatisfactory life. “Yeah. Yeah. But it is his life, though. I mean, the life he creates is his art. My writing, for example, my work, is my life. I mean, it’s not. It’s not all of my life, but it is a large part of it. I don’t think I’m not living when I’m working. It’s what I do.”

  23. leahnz says:

    haha whatever you say charlie. sounds like an artist to me

    the thing about ‘real’ re anomalisa is, because none of it’s ‘real’ but rather animated puppetry, but it’s been painstakingly created so that the eye perceives it as ‘real’ in a sense (amazing suspension of disbelief in terms of rending something so contrived to seem physically real in our perception), the idea of reality itself takes on kind of an absurdist, peculiar slant. it would be fascinating to see it recreated in live-action to see the contrast of a fabricated reality vs physical reality and how different it might feel (and by fascinating i mean a horrible idea that should never actually be attempted)

  24. Glamourboy says:

    I love how leahnz believes she knows better than Kaufman. The question posed to him was whether there was a Lisa and if she existed or was in the main character’s imagination, and he said, quite clearly, that there was a Lisa, that she was real.

    Maybe Kaufman should contact leahnz to find out a little more about his movie.

  25. leahnz says:

    kaufman can contact me any time, we’ll get high as fuck and watch eraserhead

    (hey i guess my theory was considered by others enough to ask about then, huh? but you keep on being an insufferable twat glamourboy, bless)

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