Don Hertzfeldt is mostly known for his animated short comedy Rejected, a collection of surrealist cartoons aimed at critiquing our consumer society but also to get a good laugh. The short was nominated for an Oscar in 2000. I first discovered Hertzfeldt in the seventh grade randomly coming upon one of his shorts on YouTube: Ah, L’Amour, a hilariously cynical look at love.
He has not really widely been known for having a serious side because of the fame that he received from this short. Yet he boasts several insightful films like The Meaning of Life and Lily and Jim. None however in my opinion have been as insightful as It’s Such a Beautiful Day (though I still have yet to see his most recent film World of Tomorrow).
It’s Such a Beautiful Day was actually released separately, first as two short films that came about two years after each other (Everything Will Be OK and I am So Proud of You); the last part, the titular It’s Such a Beautiful Day was added in for the full hour-long film. Despite the separate releases, all three parts seem to flow seamlessly together as though this was always the way it had been.
The film follows stick figure Bill as he struggles with several strange experiences as the omniscient narrator guides us through Bill’s usually mundane existence.
At the beginning, Bill’s life is fairly normal and the film progresses quite normally as well. As the film goes on, however, it begins to become more and more distorted in sync with how Bill views the world. We begin to see bizarre visions, characters with hooks for hands, distorted or deformed faces, etc. The dialogue from the narrator also starts to become more difficult to understand as we begin to see what is actually happening to Bill.
Everything about this movie is unique. From its pacing to its visuals, to its music, it stands out. In 62 minutes, Hertzfeldt explores themes that some movies try to dissect in three hours. It speaks of things we have all maybe thought of in passing before but have not often explored, such as mortality and the passing of time.
In one of my favorite scenes Bill explains how one of his co-workers sees time based off a physics textbook he once read:
“The passing of time is just an illusion because all of eternity is all happening at once. The past never vanishes away and the future has already happened. All of history is fixed and laid out like an infinite landscape of simultaneous events that we simply happen to travel through in one direction.”
It is these sorts of absurdisms that make the film what it is. It may for some be hard to sit through but do sit through it, it is very worth it.
In It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Hetzfeldt is able to make us feel more for a simplistic stick figure than most films can makes us feel for or relate to actual human beings. The film is more than just a film. It’s an exploration of the nature of human existence and it doesn’t only make us feel but leaves us vulnerable with a lot to think about, about how we live our lives and why we live our lives.
The film can be found on Vimeo, or in parts on YouTube but I recommend watching the full version.
Feature photo courtesy of Don Hertzfeldt