Traveling to Cincinnati to promote his new book at a convention in a hotel, customer service expert Michael Stone struggles to find his sanity while seeing everyone around him sound and look like his ex-lover, Bella.
On April 14, the Pierce College’s Film club discussed Charlie Kaufman’s 2015 film “Anomalisa” through a Zoom meeting as a part of their movie series that deals with mental health issues.
Cinema professor Ken Windrum said through Zoom, “Stone may possibly be protesting against modern American consumerist society, and maybe we should look at him as a rebel who’s sick of the fact that all of America looks the same these days.”
Windrum said the movie takes place in what he calls “airport America.”
“Anyone who has ever traveled around the country will know that when you get off the interstate, every town has become the same town,” said Windrum. “Like when Paul Simon sang “each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories” in his song Homeward Bound. It was like a reflection.”
Pierce student Ben Ruano said through Zoom he is currently taking an existentialism class and he’s noticed a lot of that in the film.
“I noticed a lot of oppression and monotony with how they were so obsessed with consumerism,” said Ruano. “It felt like others kept attacking him and disintegrating his individuality.”
Windrum said the film is based on a somewhat real syndrome called Fregoli syndrome which is the name of the hotel Stone stayed at.
“It’s the delusional belief that one or more familiar people – usually persecutors, follow the patient and repeatedly usually change their appearance,” said Windrum. “It’s an actual mental condition.”
Windrum said Fregoli was an italian theatre actor known for doing quick changes on stage when performed.
“The character in the movie doesn’t have the syndrome in a technical sense,” Windrum said.
Windrum said the film was written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, but co-credited to Duke Johnson who’s the animator.
“Kaufman in my opinion is the finest screenwriter we have working,” said Windrum. “He became very famous for “Being John Malkovich”, “Adaptation”, and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – all of which he did not direct.”
Pierce student Dave Ojeda said he thought it was humorous that Tom Noonan voices everyone in the film and questioned if the film was meant to be animated.
“It reminded me a lot of the show South Park,” said Ojeda. “Matt Stone and Trey Parker basically voice all the characters.”
Windrum said through Zoom that Kaufman wrote “Anomalisa” as a 45 minute podcast and it was later an idea he’d work with an animator.
ASO representative Alex Wick said the film made instant sense to how everyone’s faces looked the same, sounded the same, and how he related to the film instantly.
“You’re trying to break out between some type of egomania and self pity,” said Wick. “A device that rang out to me a lot is that we’re kind of like robots roaming around.
Film club Vice President Lizi Esscobar said through Zoom that Stone wanted something from the outside to fix him.
“At the end it all comes down to Stone and his own interpretations around him,” said Esscobar. “He’s projecting and the results of that made him destructive to the people around him and himself.”
President of the Film club Travis Raser said, “It perfectly encapsulates that disconnection from both reality, but specifically current contemporary American society.”