Friday, January 23, 2015
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
The 62-minute film is comprised of three shorts: Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2008), and It's Such a Beautiful Day (2011). Each short chronicles the life of Bill, a man suffering from a degenerative mental condition that changes his view of reality and causes lapses in memory. During I Am So Proud of You, we see a family history of mental illness on Bill's mother's side, which bounces between morbidity, sadness, absurdity, and such vulnerable human beauty. And it's funny too. What helps so much with this blend of tones is Hertzfeldt's narration, which is filled with a soothing and even-keeled care for Bill. It's a kind voice rather than a mocking one, and while there are hints of a smile in some lines, none of it is ever cruel.
Hertzfeldt works predominantly with stick figures, and yet he captures so much human emotion in these little guys. Sure, there are animated photos and some video involved in much of the film and used to startling effect--more fascinating is that many of these multi-media effects were achieved in camera--but the strength of Hertzfeldt's art is finding the little details that say so much. The shape of the eyes and the angle/position of a mouth take on such an uncanny humanness. The ovular eyes and the little tilt up of a mouth is a pleasantly surprised smile, no need for the obvious parenthetical mouths in an emoticon. Similarly, Hertzfeldt identifies an odd sadness in just a few choice strands of hair or a little curve under an eye or the slope and posture of one of his characters. He'll marry the image to a line in narration--an observation, an idea, an aside--and both get anchored in the brain and cause a little catch in the throat and tug at the heart.
It can hurt to be alive, and getting older really drives that pain home. Bill's days are so mundane and so lonely, and things can seem so plain sometimes. But life is also wonderful, and it's a shame that it has to end and that we spend so long worrying about how it will end. At a certain point, Bill, his mind going, takes a walk. He takes plenty, actually. but during one walk in particular, he suddenly notices what he's missing out on. All those splendors. He wants others to notice them, but they don't because they have the privilege of inattentiveness. It's one of many times during It's Such a Beautiful Day where Hertzfeldt is so earnest in what he's attempting to say. In lesser hands the whole idea would be saccharine, but in his, it's so achingly human.