If there’s one thing I learnt from my University creative writing course it’s that it’s important to make art relatable. Which, if you’re good at what you do, doesn’t necessarily have to be non-fiction or truth. This is how stop-motion films with a puppet cast like Anomalisa, become more relatable, more human, more real than movies with Tom Cruise. At first, watching Anomalisa I was confused. Mainly because every character (boy, girl, child) all had the same voice. WTF, I thought. But isn’t that wonderful? That I thought? That I actually used my brain. Okay so there is one other learning I can conjure from ENGL112 and that is to assume your audience is able. Show don’t tell. Actually, come to think of it, we already learnt that in high school…
Anyways, Anomalisa makes you think and more specifically, relate what you see to your own feels. Though each of those (feels) is different for each individual. Oi! You in the corner, yes you! I heard that sarcastic, “well, duh”! SHHH! What I’m trying to say is that it’s pretty darn difficult not to relate to at least one of the character’s problems, anxieties and/or thoughts. For example, how many of us have at one stage or another, felt our life as monotonous? Meaningless? Shallow? Or if not that, who hasn’t felt heartbreak? The desire to love and be loved in return and/or experienced the pain of finally letting that special someone go? What female (or male! Don’t attack me) hasn’t felt insecure in front of an ex lover after years of physical change? See, it’s relatable.
HOWEVER; it’s almost entirely relatable of negative feelings, of human shortcomings. So, put simply, watching it made me feel worse. I mean, I could and I am appreciating the incredible creativity and value of it all but it is what it is, raw, tear-jerking, heartbreaking, (negative) human truth.
This is how director, Charlie Kauffman put it in a recent interview:
“People are to get from it what they bring to it, how they interact with it, what it inspires in their minds based on their experience of the world. I’m not going to tell people what they should get from it. I was writing about this character who struggles with this particular problem. We’ve had an enormous diversity of reactions, and it’s not even about I love it or hate it, even though that’s part of it for some people … For me to say what it’s about would sort of preclude the possibility of people having that experience, so I’m not going to.”
So, whether you relate to Michael (the protagonist) as a selfish, egotistical, money-driven, materialistic and unbalanced asshole (Ha perhaps I shouldn’t mention that my ex’s name is Michael) or you relate to Lisa, either by having felt as “the less attractive friend” or made to feel special by a certain individual then suddenly left without a word, you’ll enjoy and by enjoy I mean you’ll pour salt on your unhealed wounds. That, or lemon juice. And, if you don’t feel anything at all, then well, lucky lucky you!