Anima: A Beautifully Choreographed Dystopian Nightmare
Acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson teams up with music icon Thom Yorke to create an audiovisual feast with his “one-reeler,” Anima. Commissioned by Yorke in support of his new solo album of the same name and distributed by Netflix, the film is a blissfully haunting marvel that packs a lot of juicy images and an array of feeling into its 15-minute runtime.
In a short musical film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Thom Yorke of Radiohead scores and stars in a mind-bending visual piece. Best played loud.
Yorke, whose best known as the frontman of Radiohead, has always crooned melancholic laments of hysteria, anxiety, and rebellion against technology and the modern world that are occasionally pacified by a drug-like haze. His latest effort continues to grapple with and explore the same themes and finally finds him coming into his own — his solo sound has always been missing the absence of the his band, until now.
The twitchy, persistent pulse and swirling, ethereal beauty of Anima’s soundscapes combined with the pretty narcotic drip of Yorke’s vocals feel right at home pressed against a quasi-futuristic, dystopian backdrop. When you add the singularly chic vision and technical mastery of Paul Thomas Anderson, you have near perfection. The short takes 3 of Yorke’s most immediately gripping new cuts (“Traffic,” “Not The News,” and “Dawn Chorus” respectively) as its backing track, and it tells a sweetly haunting story of longing with bold oddity and spellbinding style.
PTA brings Yorke’s sonics into a new plane of existence, packing the narrative with mesmerizing oddity, an unmistakeable elegance, and an inventive musicality. He wrings every ounce of awe and beauty out of his framing and visuals, which are elevated by Damien Jalet’s wonderfully inventive choreography and Tarik Barri’s visual art projections. It is aesthetically astounding with vibrant color and precise lens flares that bring the cinematography of Punch Drunk Love to mind. The story’s romantic leaning also evokes an emotional catharsis that’s similar to Punch Drunk, but that’s where comparisons stop; Anima ultimately becomes its own experience, one which feels just as vital as anything else Anderson has ever crafted.
The story follows a sleepless and distressed Thom Yorke as he attempts to return a case that is left on the subway by a woman (played by Dajana Roncione). He faces all manner of obstacles, including a Chaplin-esque turnstile, a synchronized centipede chain of dystopian conformists, and a whirlwind of trash, but he finally reaches this mystery woman, which instills in him a sense of tranquil solace.
Its title means “soul” or “life,” but it’s also allusion to the psychology of Carl Jung, referring to “the part of the psyche that is directed inward, and is in touch with the subconscious,” which gives a bit of context to Anima’s beautifully nightmarish introspection. Although, I’d argue that Plato’s Symposium plays a big role in the understanding of the film’s story.
In “The Speech of Aristophanes,” it’s speculated that in the beginning, we were a combined being outfitted with two faces, four hands, and four legs. We were later broken in two by the gods who wanted to weaken us. “[Each] one longed for its other half, and so they would throw their arms about each other, weaving themselves together, wanting to grow together,” which seems to support the images of the writhing and rolling tangle of doubled up bodies that tumble through the alleyways of its close. Another quote: “Each of us, then, is a ‘matching half’ of a human whole…and each of us is always seeking the half that matches him.” This notion of wanting to find love supports Yorke’s journey to get to the woman on the train, and the peace and exuberance he seems to find in her seems to give him the ability to be able to face the day again.
Anima is a beautifully stylized, lensed, and choreographed short that gives you a lot to unpack. It traverses a lot of ground in just 15-minutes, and it entertains and delights every step of the way. Even if you’re not totally on board with the story or aren’t exactly sure what its trying to say, you’ll be pulled in by its oddity, undeniable beauty, and bumping soundtrack.
Recommendation: It’s on Netflix, so you or whoever’s account you’re leaching off of already paid for it; just watch it right now. Then, watch it again.
Rating: 4.5 stubborn turnstiles outta 5.
What did you think? Did you love Thom Yorke and PTA’s collaboration? We want to know. Share your thought and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!