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Anima (2019)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Music from Thom Yorke

“Do you have trouble remembering your dreams?”

Bleary eyed on a busy Jubilee line tube train, the words on the advert had caught my eye. I leaned closer in my seat and squinted.

“It’s a feeling we at ANIMA know only too well. You’re deep in a surreal world where you can be anybody you like, where you can do anything. And then you wake up, and the dream fades. It’s gone, like smoke on the breeze. Or is it?”

I look around at my fellow travellers. Everyone shuffling off to work in their fugue states. No eye contact, no words. Just the squeal of the tracks outside our metal cylinder hurtling people to places they don’t want to go. I read on…

“Here at ANIMA we’ve built something called a Dream Camera. Just call or text the number and we’ll get your dreams back. 07588 733 111”.

It would be several days later, ironically riding on another form of public transport, when this advert would reappear. This time, accompanied by the rumour that it was guerrilla advertising for Thom Yorke’s imminent third album. Catching a whiff of this, Radiohead devotee that I am, I snatched my phone up and punched in the digits. A robotic voice spoke back to me;

“You are hereby informed that due to serious and flagrant unlawful activities, ANIMA Technologies has been ordered by the authorities to cease and desist from undertaking its advertised business, and, further, from taking any telephone calls in relation to the aforesaid business. Should you wish to leave a message, please do so after the tone.”

Not The News, a song I first heard performed live over a year ago by Yorke himself, rang out from the ear piece. Such delights were further compounded when Paul Thomas Anderson released a teaser for a short one-reeler film entitled ANIMA. Starring and featuring new music by none other than Thom Yorke.

At rush hour on a Monday morning I shuffle from train to tube to train again in search of my seat at an IMAX to watch this 15-minute short ahead of its release on Netflix later this week. There was a respectful and awed silence in the audience as the lights went down and the story began.

A tube train rattles down the tracks. Bleary eyed individuals avoid eye contact. Thom Yorke looks up, half asleep, at an unknown entity. What the fuck is going on here?! Who has been watching me? Not The News begins to pulsate on the soundtrack. The drones aboard the tube train begin to twitch, convulse, to sleep and then wake up. Yorke is trapped amongst then. Though he rallies to break free from their ranks, he moves where they move. Cue a series of Metropolis-like scenes of workers queuing, marching and toiling away. It’s all greys, shadows and angular set pieces set to Yorke’s electronic punches. The soundtrack will shift twice along this journey. Into the playfulness of Traffic. Then finally, the bittersweet call of Dawn Chorus. Yorke’s real-life partner Dajana Roncione embodies his hopes, dreams and desires in this dystopian nightmare. Always just out of reach yet agonisingly close enough to pursue. By the time the Tarik Barri visuals have stopped flickering across the screen and Thom’s odyssey has come to an end (on yet another mode of public transport) I realised I had tears in my eyes. An incredibly moving journey that is both incomprehensible yet perfectly relatable at the same time. As all great work should be. All this accomplished in 15 minutes. Bra-fucking-vo!

Shot in Prague, the not quite familiar landscapes only work to enhance the surreal beauty of Paul Thomas Anderson’s unique vision. This is PTA like we haven’t seen him before. He’s dabbled in music video territory (Radiohead’s Daydreaming most closely resembles this), but this is much more than that. He’s been challenged by Yorke’s music here but he’s more than capable of rising to the occasion. As for Yorke, this is certainly a first for him. He’s never been shy about putting himself front and centre in both his music videos and on stage. But his awkwardness has always been there for all to see. It’s what his fans love about him. It’s there on screen even in ANIMA. Showing a fragility in both the performance and at the heart of the man himself. He may not know it, or want it, but he is representing every man on screen.

So what’s it all about? Well, you must decide for yourself. Turnstiles that won’t turn, winds that blow everyone down, floors that twist and turn. It’s overarching theme seems to suggest that both the connect and disconnect from other human beings is what makes the world go round. It’s the eternal battle. Who should you keep close, who should you distance yourself from. Who should you march with, who should you run against? In the end, is it all just a dream anyway? Do we leave the same way we came in. Or is the opposite true?

Do you have trouble remembering your dreams?

It’s about to land on Netflix on Thursday 27th June. If you can get out to see this at an IMAX near you, do so. The sights and sounds of this deserve to be seen in as powerful and magnificent a setting as possible. There is a free screening at the Cineworld IMAX - Leicester Square tonight at 7:40pm.

Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis; more info here:

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for a fellow Radiohead band member in the opening minute.



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