When silent cinema meets Black Mirror, Anima is the love child that is created.
A short musical lasting only 15 minutes, consisting of zero dialogue, Anima somehow manages to be more captivating than most other recent Netflix film releases. Featuring three songs from Thom Yorke’s new album ‘ANIMA’, director Paul Thomas Anderson imagines this “mind-bending visual piece.” The slow beginning instantly intrigues, raising questions of why this seemingly ordinary train carriage has now become a harmonious dance of fatigued passengers. The pace then fastens as the protagonist chases a small black bag which holds importance throughout the short. Suddenly entering a quick-paced dance, evocative of 1920s expressionist art and film, shadows dance along with the bag. Just out of reach this tempts our protagonist, slipping further away with each new slant of the rooftop dance floor.
With music leading the pace of this story, narrative follows as it slows. We enter a romance segment. The bag having disappeared, gentle melodies prompt the protagonist to lean beside a fellow member of his train against a dark wall. Soft facial touches and intimate movements build up to yet another dramatic scene, in which they join numerous couples in a romantic dance sequence. This builds from close-ups of heads lent on one another to a dozen partners moving simultaneously in response to the newest melody, finally transporting us back to where this story began – the train.
As the protagonist and his partner glide harmoniously back towards their carriage, the musically programmed world we have been submerged into over the last 15 minutes begins to fade. Re-entering reality with a lone shot of the protagonist less dramatically recreating the beginning sequence of slumber, the audience is left to question what truly happened within Thom Yorke and Paul Thomas Anderson’s musical short. Music now faded out, all you can hear are ordinary sounds of life. Birds chirping, the train gliding, and so on. This forces the question: was this perfectly choreographed world simply a dreamt-up reality, or did the dramatic journey surrounding one carriage, a bag and a short romantic endeavour actually occur? The room for individual interpretation is particularly appealing, with the perceived meanings of Anima found only through thorough thought.
This collaboration between Yorke and PTA is a creative and intelligently put together short film, entering a field of ‘musicals’ yet to be explored in depth whereby music without lyrics motivates the narrative. This genre-bending piece not only captures interest from the moment you hit play, but does not fail to build on and hold this curiosity and excitement throughout. With the word anima being defined as ‘the part of the psyche that is directed inwards, in touch with the subconscious’, this visually innovative, beautifully lit, reality-questioning short might just be one to look out for in the next awards season. For anyone looking to feel transported back into the jumpy, cutty filmmaking of the past, whilst also exploring an exciting new subgenre, Anima is a must-see.
Anima, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is available to stream via Netflix, certificate PG.