Where can one even begin with a movie like “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”? This captivating film created by Don Hertzfeldt, comprised mainly of simple animation and unique editing, is misleading in the best way possible. One would assume that with such a silly presentation, this movie can’t have that much depth, right? Wrong! Hertzfeldt managed to make an animated masterpiece that analyzes mental illness, as well as the concept of life overall, in such a compelling manner that it leaves the audience thinking (something I personally believe every film should do for their audience).
If any of you have ever seen Hertzfeldt’s animated shorts of all that is random, maybe well over a decade ago when Youtube was still a new media platform, you’d know that simple animation in unison with absurdist humour is his most popular route of introducing his pieces.
While that strategy is still present in “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” Hertzfeldt also clashes this with real life footage and disconnectedly displays the two together through the use of an old-ass vintage camera (super fucking cool, by the way). He does so by displaying the visuals in little blobs on a black screen, which comes across similarly to how burn holes in a film reel would appear.
This unusual approach in regards to cinematography is so wonderfully conflicting, there’s no way it can’t get you hard. And while it’s mostly a black and white film, just wait until he throws in colors later on. I can promise you it’s so striking and sexy.
To accompany the strange cinematography, there also exists the unusual sound design, which I would like to touch upon briefly. Any of you music geeks out there would’ve noticed Hertzfeldt’s use of romantic music right off the bat (you know, from the era of Romanticism). What’s up with that? His music choice is still a mystery to me, but the sound effects he uses are spot on to deliver the exact feeling and mood embedded in the scenes.
Specifically, Hertzfeldt incorporates gradually crescendoing unsettling sounds that convey a feeling of disorientation. Now this is pretty cool, because it helps the audience take a visit into the brain of our main character, Bill. We, as the audience, audibly experience the same type of unsettling discomfort that he must undergo.
The film kicks off with spontaneous, random humor as an introduction, which is no surprise knowing Hertzfeldt’s previous animation history. It’s a strategic way to keep the audience’s attention, really, as the remainder of the film becomes so unpredictable. A detached narrator gives us Bill’s thoughts, which are delivered so raw and unfiltered.
We get Bill’s emotions as honest as possible through a series of terse sentences (don’t worry, the narration gradually gets more detailed). The narration itself switches from serious and beautifully straight to random and funny in just a beat, which is such a Don Hertzfeldt move. A great example would be when the narrator drives us into chapter two of the three part movie and introduces us to Bill’s family history.
He manages to make this recap creative, funny, and tragic all at the same time (how?!). To be more particular, when the long lost brother is introduced, it starts of as a hilarious description of a barbarian that wanders into town and only knows the word “Bible.” But then the narrator describes his death so beautifully.
“He died alone in the summer morning dreaming of the moon. Six months later, a sunflower grew out of his head.”
And the part where Hertzfeldt briefly mentions Bill’s grandfather, and his relationship to his wife? If that doesn’t yank at your heartstrings a little, I don’t know what will.
The small backstory of his family history is the perfect way to reveal a background of mental illness, which is the main serious topic Hertzfeldt tackles throughout the film. To be frank, if someone out there with a mental illness watches this film, they could probably empathize with Bill. And for those of you who don’t have a mental illness, congratulations. But Hertzfeldt provides a pretty solid simulation of what the experience is like.
Especially the seizure scene (this isn’t a spoiler, trust me)?! So much light and color, and that sound. It’s overwhelming, just as it should feel! He also verbally takes on the concept of mental illness as he explains what’s going on in Bill’s decaying mind.
“The years are slipping out of his head.”
(Personally, this line made me shudder. Memory issues? Dementia? That’s some real shit, man. Real scary shit.)
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” ultimately gives the audience a better understanding of mental illness in general, a lesson I personally find important for an artist to share, especially in a world where it’s so real and can really handicap people. It also gives an overall lesson about life without directly dictating us how to live it, but just showing the beauty of it through art. And fuck, you know what?
It’s pretty fucking cool that Hertzfeldt demonstrates these “lessons,” for lack of a better word, through art. Insanity plus art is definitely the best combination. So thank you, Don Hertzfeldt, for gracing us with an enrapturing story that touches on sensitive topics in a humorous, serious, and overall artistic way, all while reminding us how fragile and beautiful life is.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Bitter Films/Cinemad Presents.