'It's Such a Beautiful Day' is nothing like any other feature film. If you are new to Don Hertzfeld's work I would highly recommend doing a quick YouTube search of his name. 'Rejected' is a good example of his style. Hertzfeld is hard to classify. His animation style is simple yet remarkably emotive, dancing between the surreal and the heart wrenchingly real. 'It's Such a Beautiful Day' is a very heavy watch, exploring themes of life/death, youth/aging, longing/impermanence and the unstoppable thirst for the beauty of existence so central to our humanity, the unquenchable awe that keeps us going every day.
In the film Hertzfeld follows a simple relatable stick figure named Bill. The dry, blunt (in a good way) narration follows Bill from infancy to adulthood to old age, chronicling in chilling detail the slow devastating deterioration of his mind and body. Executed with exquisite writing this rocky emotional journey is full of engaging secondary-plots and character development. While primarily animated on paper with stick figures Hertzfeld manages to create magical exciting transitions, dream-states and other visual effects all while staying within the medium for the most part.
As a musician I just have to comment on the music too. Hertzfeld as usual did not disappoint with the soundtrack. His selections were absolutely stunning, perfectly accompanying the thematic content of the film. These were my personal favourite selections: Smetana's The Moldau - This late- Classical era piece was written about the Moldau, a long winding majestic European river which ends its long journey by spilling into the vast sea. I think this selection perfectly matched the film's thematic content. The permanence of the unending rushing currents of the Moldau juxtaposed against its ultimate fate, to be lost forever flowing into the vase ocean perfectly compliments the film's many monologues about the unimaginable immensity of cosmic time and the universal reality of death, our own spilling into the great abyss. Hertzfeld also featured some excerpts from Strauss' Four Last Songs. As it sounds, these pieces are the last four pieces composed by Richard Strauss who never lived to hear them performed. Their German lyrics are riddled with premonitions and contemplations of both life and death. Hertzfeld's choice here could not have been more tasteful in my opinion. Mirroring the lyrics, as Bill wastes away we are confronted with some of the most fundamental questions. What ought we to value most of all, how do we want to be remembered, who/what brought us true happiness, should we live our life for this life's sake or for the hypothetical next, does anyone die truly satisfied? Although the film is stunning enough on its own, for those familiar with these works and their meanings the combination of elegant prose and these gorgeous selections is truly paralyzing. Finally as Hertzfeld draws the work to a finale he chooses Schumann's beautiful, tender, nostalgic Traumerei which means 'Dreaming'. I don't have much to say about this other than thank you Don.
Don Hertzfeld's talent creativity and wisdom is showcased brilliantly in this film. I will be showing this to many many people and will be returning many many times as I grow older and older. 'It's Such a Beautiful Day' is very dark and emotionally heavy. It might be too 'artsy' for some (I hate that word) but in reality it is an extremely mature work of art. This film tackles some really fundamentally disturbing questions. On the one hand it brings up our mortality, our short painful ofttimes disappointing existence. But in light of this depressing truth it also celebrates our remarkable abilities to experience beauty, joy, love, laughter, awe, inspiration, wonder, curiosity, discovery, kindness, passion and everything that makes us human, everything that makes life real, everything that makes it a privilege to experience in our short snippet of time here.
This film also really spoke to me in terms of my personal struggle into atheism throughout my teenage years. For some it's hard to see a reason to keep existing when leaving a given faith, however when grappling with cosmic insignificance one eventually encounters many important realizations that make life truly wonderful, awe inspiring and worthwhile. I found that this film, particularly in the finale, addresses many of these issues and for that reason it really gave me chills. This film nearly moved me to tears in more different ways than I have ever experienced, constantly torn between a deep existential sorrow and inexplicable organic joy from being alive. I would recommend this to anybody but I do think this can be particularly helpful for those struggling with the issues non-belief and death. Even though I've lived out my teen years and have begun my gradual but steady deterioration into nonexistence, this film shows my why, in the face of that dark abyss, I have every reason in the world to be happy, to be joyful, to laugh and love as much as I can while I still can. 'It's Such a Beautiful Day' encourages its audience to stop and smell the roses; to realize that amid all the suffering so inseparable from the human experience, we're also gifted with indescribable beauties, a capacity for crippling emotion, loyal companionship, and a vast mysterious cosmos we are learning more about every day. We have much to fear, but we have so much more to be thankful for. 'It's Such a Beautiful Day' reminds us that we are all in the process of dying, year by year and, just in case there's no light at the end of the tunnel it implores us to live for today and enjoy every single aspect of our frail existence before its too late.