Annie Hall: From Sigmund Freud To Existentialism

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) is forty years old, divorced twice, an intellectual and a Jewish comic in New York City. Annie Hall is an analysis of the his latest relationship. Miss Annie Hall is a self-conscious aspiring nightclub singer. Though, he believes he could make this one last, due to his fifteen years and counting of seeing a therapist. His other reasons for thinking this is he subconsciously rejects women who want to date him. Odd huh? He critiques his own life, and the reasons why he wanted to see Annie in the first place, which include the archetypal Jewish guilt of growing up around parents who spend all day arguing over stupidness.

What an enjoyable film, but also what a depressing one. Never have I felt so depressed after watching a movie, yet so elated. Whilst Allen spins an interesting yarn about love and relationships in the real world, he also spins one that picks at the futility of one’s existence. Annie Hall is creative and intelligent, but the casual and relaxed screenplay and direction allows the audience to be included in the film and makes us a part of what unfolds onscreen. Allen makes the viewers characters in Annie Hall, by using the camera simply by standing in front of it, wisecracking and sharing his views on the world with us. It’s so simple, yet why isn’t anybody else doing it?

So, Woody Allen basically told Diane Keaton to wear whatever she wanted, and why the hell not?
(Annie Hall, United Artists)

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) are so well written and well-rounded that by the end of the ninety-odd minutes or so, we know why they broke up. It sounds so basic, but romance dramas today still struggle with seemingly simple things. And this goes down to a fine script by Woody Allen and the performances from Allen (Manhattan) and Keaton (The Godfather). Such things in the script include putting Alvy in other people’s shoes (literally) and the use of subtitles. And the use of subtitles is there to represent that social subtext that many people can’t always pick up on, as depicted in a great scene on the balcony.

After The Sting, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the 1970s looked to be an eventful decade for Best Picture-winners at the Academy Awards. Let’s not forget to mention Annie Hall pushing out Star Wars to claim that golden statue for Best Picture, made in a time before Hollywood’s SciFi/Fantasy bias kicked in. Annie Hall is a great depiction of 70s pop culture, but more so, a wonderful look at human nature in the bigger machine, in regards to relationships and how people can change in a short while if their conditioning is perfect. People change and people who were once compatible are now not.

Co-written by Allen with Marshall Brickman and directed by Woody Allen himself, he stars as Alvy Singer, a shaky, death-loving comic who seems to have been dealt a bad hand at life… right up until he meets Annie, played by the capable and talented Diane Keaton who is as odd, carefree and eccentric as he is, using expressions like “la di da” in her everyday discourse. The screenplay is out of this world and so is the film. And it deserved to beat Star Wars for Best Picture and direction. There is not a single line from the film that isn’t hilarious, poignant or quite honestly, so damn quotable. It’s like the Bible for top witty banter and intelligent lingo.

The audience laughs because the film is actually amusing, not because the comedy value is cheap, as is so common with US comedy these days. Their relationship is part of a big machine, whether that be in New York or Los Angeles. In addition to the comedy of relationships and the physical comedic relief that brings, the screenplay pokes fun at society with comic jibes at 70s politics, East Coast/West Coast rivalry/banter, America’s love for itself, organised religion, celebrity culture, Jewish humour, the psychologist Sigmund Freud, cultural stereotypes and many other topics. And you can’t not admit that Woody Allen is a funny guy.

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton on the balcony is one of the best scenes in the whole film
(Annie Hall, United Artists)

From the acting performances to breaking the fourth wall to its political rhetoric, Annie Hall is great, and it may have just made my list of all-time favourite films. It’s not just a romantic comedy, it’s a film that picks at the establishment, and I’m up for anything that does that in as many creative and innovative ways as Mr Allen.

Annie Hall shows that we’re just visitors; and before we know it, we’re six feet under surrounded by the wildlife, and that’s just the tip of the existential iceberg