Study Guide

Annie Hall Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd

Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd

ALVY: There's an old joke, um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know—and such small portions." 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.

This joke and the joke that Alvy tells at the end of the movie about the eggs (see Quote #8) act as bookends for the story. Both convey Alvy's idea that life and love are absurd, but we need them anyway.

YOUNG ALVY: The universe is expanding.

DR. FLICKER: The universe is expanding?

YOUNG ALVY: Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart and that will be the end of everything!

ALVY'S MOM: What is that your business? [to the doctor] He stopped doing his homework!

YOUNG ALVY: What's the point?

ALVY'S MOM: What has the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

DR. FLICKER: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!

Most of us struggle with the idea of death when we're kids. It's a tough concept. But not all of us use the fact that the universe is expanding to skip out on our homework.

ALVY'S MOM: You always only saw the worst in people. You never could get along with anyone in school. You were always out of step with the world. Even when you got famous, you still distrusted the world.

In other words, Alvy's always seen things a bit differently—and a bit skeptically.

ALVY: I was depressed at that time. I was in analysis. I was suicidal, as a matter of fact, and would've killed myself, but I was in analysis with a strict Freudian. And if you kill yourself, they make you pay for the sessions you miss.

This joke from Alvy's stand-up routine shows that Alvy views just about everything through a filter of  absurdity.

PAM: You catch Dylan?

ALVY: Me? No, I couldn't make it. My raccoon had hepatitis.

PAM: You have a raccoon?

ALVY: A few.

Alvy's incongruous response illustrates how ridiculous he finds Pam and her gushing about Bob Dylan, the Maharishi, and how thoroughly "transplendent" everything is. Do you think Pam gets that he's openly mocking her?

PARTY GUEST: Right now, it's only a notion, but I think I can get money to make it into a concept, and then later, turn it into an idea.

When Alvy and Annie go to Los Angeles, the people and situations they encounter are presented like the Old Country Buffet of absurdity—even Alvy's pal, Rob. Er, Max.

PARTY GUEST: I forgot my mantra.

The guests at Tony's groovy L.A. party border on cartoon characters in their ridiculousness.

ALVY: This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; you know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.

This quote is so vital to understanding the movie that we've included it in two different themes. Check it out: the egg joke conveys the main idea of the entire movie—that love, with all of its ups and downs, is totally absurd, but, in the end, we need it.

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