Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest collaboration with Radiohead, which began in 2007 with the film There Will Be Blood, was released on Netflix on Thursday. Anima is a 15-minute short film inspired by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s solo album of the same name.
Anima combines three music videos that have been set to the songs Not The News, Traffic and Dawn Chorus. Yorke had previously told Crack Magazine that the album’s themes revolved around anxiety in a dystopian environment. The singer and songwriter also features in Anima.
The word “anima”, according to psychoanalyst Carl Jung, refers to the part of the personality that is in touch with the unconscious. The track Last I Heard (...He Was Circling The Drain) begins with the lines, “I woke up with a feeling that I just cannot take.”
Anderson’s Anima, shot by renowned cinematographer Darius Khondji, has an oneiric quality. It includes images of people wearing dark clothes and struggling to get to work. Artist Tarik Barri has provided the visual installations projected onto cave walls in a section of the film.
The humans, which include Yorke, seem indistinguishable from one another, and appear to be controlled by a mysterious force. Their robotic dance, choreographed to Yorke’s jagged electronic music by Damien Jalet, is as involuntary as it is synchronised.
Yorke snaps out of the trance when he spots his real-life partner, Italian actress Dajana Roncione, in the crowd. As he pursues a missing lunchbox, Yorke goes down a rabbit hole filled with people who bend, crawl and twitch to the song Traffic. The lyrics “I can’t breathe / There’s no water / A drip feed / Foie gras / A brick wall” suggest dread and menace.
Yorke reconnects with Roncione in the sublime final section, which is set to Dawn Chorus. The lovebirds waltz through dark streets until the sun appears on the horizon.
Anderson’s collaborations with Radiohead include the six-and-a-half-minute music video Daydreaming. The band’s second-in-command Jonny Greenwood has scored four Anderson films, the latest being Phantom Thread (2017). Anderson also directed and shot the documentary Junun (2015), based on the making of the album of the same name by Greenwood and others.