by Luv Mehta
Don Hertzfeldt has been a legend in film circles for a long time - he directs and animates every single frame of his various works, which is why most of them end up being short films released every couple of years or so. He’s probably most well known for Rejected, a short that became iconic on the Internet at the turn of the millenium, and World Of Tomorrow, that picked up multiple awards and an Academy Award nomination (with many claiming it was the absolute best movie of 2015).
This isn’t about either of those movies. But then, the title of this article already clued you in to that fact.
What I want to talk about, using these words in this article, is a collection of three short films, Everything Will Be OK, I’m So Proud Of You, and It’s Such A Beautiful Day, which are often packaged together into a single film sharing its name with the very last of those shorts. Because it may be one of the absolute best movies I’ve ever seen.
Tall claim, I know.
How do we know when a movie is truly great? Do we scrutinize all the elements, ranging from the acting to the direction to the script to the cinematography to the music to all the rest of the different jigsaw pieces that end up making the whole? And once all of them have been judged as being of high quality, do we then come across the conclusion that the movie is of sufficient caliber and we can bestow an adjective befitting its quality?
Of course not. It’s a movie, not a fucking answer sheet.
A ‘great movie’, so to say, is completely subjective, of course. Each work of art is the result of great hardship undertaken by the artists responsible, and all art is meant to evoke a reaction within you - and with all of us being special little tin cans full of snowflakes in the world, all bent and twisted out of shape in our own unique ways, we’re pretty much wired to respond differently to any singular piece of art.
So, when I say that It’s Such A Beautiful Day is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, I won’t expect you to have the same reaction to it. All I can do is tell you about the emotions it instilled in me, a single, unimportant speck in the universe.
The trilogy focuses on one of the other such insignificant specks. Even his name is so commonplace you might forget it a second after reading - why the hell would anyone name a protagonist, the central focus of the entire story, an ordinary name like Bill?
The obvious answer to that, of course, is that he could be any of us.
The very first scene of the movie has Bill walking down the street, and see someone walking towards him. He vaguely recognizes his face, but doesn’t remember his name. A flicker of recognition shows up in the other man’s eyes as well, and they realize they’re already locked in a path of collision, about to meet each other, not knowing what to say.
The conversation goes as such:-
Bill (mixing up ‘How’s it going?’ and ‘What’s up?’): “How’s up?”
Other Guy (confused): “Thanks!”
Bill (blurting out whatever sound he can make in time): “Weh.”
They never see each other again.
Bill muses, at his house, that all the mundane tasks he performs each day, dropping his keys on the table, turning the lights on, vacuuming his house, washing the dishes, brushing his teeth, watching TV - all these have taken up so much time of every single day, that they’ve essentially become his life, with all the other moments of the day being the unusual parts.
Much later, we see Bill remember this picture perfect scene of him as a child, on the beach, looking into the waves, transient, yet permanent - thinking of his life, and all the wonderful things he will do with it.
And at the end of this wasted life, in the present, Bill becomes terminally ill, his memories fading into oblivion, his brain playing tricks on his mind, causing him to hallucinate on the streets, unsure of anything he sees.
If that sounds depressing, I’ve only done half of my job here. Because It’s Such A Beautiful Day isn’t just about the inevitability of death and oblivion, of course - it wouldn’t be a bad movie, by any means, but it wouldn’t be as great.
Instead, the movie wants to do something quite different. It wants to turn your head towards the absurdity of all our mundane lives. It wants you to see past your house, your window, the footpath you follow just to end up at your own door. It wants you to see the flowers, the birds, the way the sun moves through the buildings, the way the dust kicked back from the cars willow about in the sunbeams. It wants you to see people, with all their lives equally interesting as yours, going about their lives in a story of their choosing. It wants you to look at that car-rental service and maybe, just maybe, start a new chapter of your own. It wants you to look beyond. It wants you to see the clouds and the stars, the comets in the skies, all of existence beyond your understanding, with your life being but one story out of many - but a story where you are the protagonist.
Your life isn’t meant to be a series of humdrum activities meant to satisfy your daily needs. And yes, you are an insignificant speck in the vast universe - but isn’t that vastness wondrous? In all that space, in all the time it took to come to the present, the universe also made you. You, with all your experiences, all your memories, all the events that shaped you. And you, living in a house, a neighbourhood, a city, composed of all the things and all the people with all their histories that shaped them, caused them to come into being, exactly as they are. And you’re supposed to do something about that, goddammit, not just spectate and stay on the sidelines and do all the bare minimum things you can to exist.
Because, with all the random and inexplicable events in the universe, all the things that it made, all the things that it destroyed, you exist. And even if you’re doomed to die from the moment you’re born, you live. And isn’t it amazing?
And it’s a lesson we’ll all get in life.
Unfortunately, we’re not obliged to get it in time.
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