This essay will discuss the ways in which the opening scene of Annie Hall (1977) perfectly showcases Woody Allen’s signature styles, characters, and themes. Woody Allen managed to cramp all of his beliefs and philosophies in the opening scene in just five short minutes. He cast himself to play a character who was another variation on Allen himself. Using a monologue, Allen spoke intimately to the audience, which draws viewers out of the false reality of movies. These two ways that Allen chose to open the film with already fully captured the “pure” Woody Allen. His distinctive voice-over and his passionate ramble on God, faith, love, and death define Woody Allen and his work. It makes the viewers very aware of his presence, even without seeing his face on the screen.
Allen started Annie Hall with a joke, which is a classic from him. “Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly”, the comedian said. Allen has a comic perspective on life. It is clear that he tends to deal with life with a comic filter even though his view on life is rather pessimistic. Such characteristic is clearly reflected in Annie Hall as he wasted no time to talk to the audience about how miserable life could be with a “joke.” Later on, young Alvy is introduced to us by the character himself. However, the catch is that the description of young Alvy does not match up to the young Alvy we see in the film. “I am not a morose type. I’m not a depressive character. I, uh you know, I was a reasonably happy kid,” he claimed, then the film cuts to a flashback of his mother screaming to a doctor and telling him that Alvy is depressed. Young Alvy continued to explain how there’s no point in life as the universe is expanding and it will break apart eventually. Allen established an ironic and depreciating joke about life and himself in this perfectly orchestrated scene, which further highlights Allen’s present in this film.
Another defining feature of Woody Allen is his running obsession with love. Again, he started the topic with a joke. “‘I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.’ That’s the key joke of my adult life in terms of my relationships with women,” he said. His pessimistic view on romance is exhibited here with another depreciating joke. The character expressed that he broke up with Annie and that he has been trying to figure out the reasons for the failure of his relationship. This and the whole premise of Annie Hall align with Allen’s constant search for the philosophy of love in his work.
Furthermore, “I have a hyperactive imagination. My mind tends to jump around a little, and have some trouble between fantasy and reality,” he explained, Allen likes to play with the idea of fantasy and reality. Firstly, his point is hinted at the shot where the girl at the food stand stops before the camera and throws a kiss. Secondly, the character “traveled back” in time. Not only did he physically visited a memory of his but he also interacted with and altered others in that memory in the classroom. Allen’s play on fantasy and reality can be seen in his other films other than Annie Hall, for instance, in Play It Again, Sam (1972), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Thereby, Allen, yet again, masterfully showcased his other identifiable style at the opening scene of Annie Hall.
All in all, Allen delivers his comedic, yet intimate, monologue at the opening scene of the movie, which pays tribute to many key features in both Woody Allen’s film and his life. The scene established the strong presence of the auteur as it raises philosophical questions on life and romantic relationship and it is filled with depreciating jokes to cope with his pessimistic view on life.
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