If something perfectly expresses the meaning of candid for us, it’s the protagonist of “It’s Such A Beautiful Day,” the film by Don Hertzfeldt. Bill, the name of the protagonist with two physical dimensions and infinite symbolic depth, is a human being full of genuine concerns that might seem unhealthy and close to madness, but he remains a human being after all. An animated human, but human nonetheless, because I feel him close to us throughout his journey comprised of three short films spanning from 2006 to 2011, which culminated in the 2012 film compilation.
Why do I feel so close to him on this blog, you might wonder? Primarily because I’ve all gone through emotional rough patches at some point in our lives, experienced obsessive thoughts escaping our control and comprehension, endured a monotony that unknowingly destroys our daily lives, thanks to our ability to function on autopilot. But not just for that reason; also, and above all, because Bill, the character created, drawn, and written by Don Hertzfeldt —who also provides the films’ narration— conveys as much life as empathy. His suffering, as well as his untapped potential in a life that promises so much yet often delivers disappointment, anxiety, ailments, or illnesses, is real.
While each of the three shorts behind “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” maintains a similar tone that connects them, making them feel like a single film, the truth is that some are more optimistic than others. If the lost dream is never regained, even less so are the moments we live, the memories that linger in our minds, and much less everything that has shaped us into the individuals we are. Therefore, perhaps, Hertzfeldt’s film is so poignant —capturing so much life complexity in such a short time, with a distinctive style, a light-hearted tone, and music that only adds to the importance of what we see. The post-humor, the reflections, the authorial personality, and the main character all make this article nothing more than a tribute and a recommendation for anyone who is not yet familiar with this work, as well as other works by the filmmaker and writer, who continues to outdo himself year after year with his ingenious adventures (which I provide at the end of this piece as related posts).
Everything Will Be Ok (2006), Bill’s Melancholy
In “Everything Will Be Ok,” we get to know Bill and delve into his psyche. We learn about the character’s life background, childhood, past, family and romantic relationships, glimpses of the past that have distorted his reality, as well as other routines of a simple, imperceptible life that increasingly affects his deteriorating mind —even with details as simple as a greeting, which, though basic, can linger throughout the day.
The music of Bedrich Smetana’s “Vltava” (The Moldau), the sound of street sweepers’ vacuum cleaners, the observation of not picking fruit at the supermarket the same way after watching the film —all accompany us through 17 minutes where we laugh and suffer for Bill’s future. But don’t be misled by our words: there’s seriousness in “Everything Will Be Ok,” even if it’s not obvious, just as in the other short films. The grandeur, which indeed exists extraordinarily, uplifts the value of life and the mentioned potential it holds, even though for many, it lacks direction. And for those who doubt the grandeur, pay attention to the appearance of another theme within the film: Richard Wagner’s “Das Rheingold Prelude,” as well as the moment of its appearance (though in this case, I might be advancing a few minutes of footage).
I Am So Proud Of You (2008), Sequels Are Almost Always Good
Someone should tell Don Hertzfeldt that he’s the best at choosing titles for his films. They say so much with so little. And “I Am So Proud Of You” is the best of the three parts, perhaps because it allows for further development of the character introduced in the previous installment. Here, Bill seems to recover from the health issues he faced while organizing thoughts that often appear uncontrollable. If in World Of Tomorrow we claimed to be proud of our sadness, here the pride is even greater, as it encompasses even more of our lives, both the anguish and the joyful future.
Because if nothing else, we smile or even laugh throughout the 22-minute runtime. Perhaps upon observing ourselves unselfconsciously in a mirror and realizing that life is what it is —that relaxes us—and we come to value more all what we have. Though we are full of potential without control, and the lost dream may never be recovered, life still remains worthwhile. As someone would say: The space head gradually detaching in a cyclical timelessness in the eternity of paper and sand, of the body.
Although I’m not sure what it means.
It’s Such A Beautiful Day (2011), The Short that Concludes the Trilogy and Completes the 2012 Feature
Until we feel vertigo. The most anomalous, inaccessible, individualistic existentialism, yet at the same time, the most widespread. And all because we fear making it public, as it involves delving into an abyss that, despite many people claiming not to fear or think about it, resides within many of us. Nobody has seen the future, only others die in life, life’s charm lies in what we experience and cling to, and for all these reasons and more, “It’s Such A Beautiful Day,” the short, is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
And thus, I want to conclude this humble ode to Bill with a quote from the film that encompasses everything I’ve shared about it and everything it makes me feel. Never has a voiceover been so useful, convincing, and irrefutable as the driving force of narration, leaving room for animation and often uncomfortable silences that turn each of the shorts into a gem, making us want to see more works from this American author with a slightly special mind. If you don’t believe it, take a look at Don Hertzfeldt’s YouTube channel and some of his other works.
He will spend hundreds of years traveling the world; learning everything there is to know. He will learn all languages, read all books, know all lands. He will spend thousands of years creating breathtaking works of art. He will learn to meditate to control all pain.
Wars will be fought and won, and great loves will be found and lost, and found, and lost, and found, and found, and lost again, and memories will build upon memories, until life becomes a never-ending cycle. He will father hundreds of thousands of children, whose exponential offspring will gradually lose all sense of years. Whose millions of beautiful lives will eventually be swept away from the Earth once more. And still, Bill will continue.
He will learn more about life than any being in history, but death will always be a stranger to him. People will come and go, until names lose all meaning, until individuals lose all meaning and vanish entirely from the world, and Bill will keep on living. He will befriend the next inhabitants of Earth, beings of light who will worship him as a god.
And Bill will outlive them all, for millions and millions of years, exploring, learning, living. Until the Earth swallows him whole. Until the sun has long since gone. Until time loses all meaning and he only knows the positions of stars, seeing them whether his eyes are closed or open. Until he forgets his name and the place he came from. He will live, and live, until all lights go out.
I watched, liked and rated It’s Such a Beautiful Day on Thursday Dec 13, 2012
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.