CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Wish I Could Believe That . . .

Well, one thing's for sure. Bill Plympton cannot predict the Oscars. He said that of the eleven short films presented in this year's The Animation Show Program, three would be on the shortlist for this year's Oscars. But when January 23 came along, Everything Will Be OK, Dreams and Desires - Family Ties, and Guide Dog were nowhere to be found.

Too bad, since Everything Will Be OK and Dreams and Desires are both superb shorts and deserve to be recognized. At least Everything Will Be OK won at Sundance. It's stunning, even more so given that it was made by Don Hertzfeldt. I don't mean that as an insult to Hertzfeldt, whose films have always been extremely entertaining and honest with regards to the bleakness and hostility of the world. But his cartoons, as you can watch below, have never been particularly deep. But this changes with Everything Will Be OK.

Everything Will Be OK tells the story of Bill. Bill is just an average guy. Sometimes his mind wanders, but it's nothing strange. Unfortunately, Bill starts developing a mental illness. This is the heart of the story and where it achieves its greatest successes. The film turns into a meditation on the state of mental illness and general philosophy. Where most live action films look on philosophical matters with long, near silent, empty shots, Everything Will Be OK takes the opposite approach. Almost every moment in Everything Will Be OK is dominated by a narrator. The voice tells us everything that happens on screen, including the conversations Bill has with other people. By taking this approach, combined with the sparse animation, Hertzfeldt uses the general simplicity and banality of the style to elevate Bill's story to sublime heights. I guess the closest comparison I can make is being moved by Nirvana's simplified melodies and disconnected lyrics. Having it described just doesn't do it justice.

What impressed me most about Everything Will Be OK was the way it portrayed overstimulation and mental illness in general. Where most films look at overstimulation with overlapping dialogue and quick cutting, Everything Will Be OK just puts everything out there. The frame fractures into sections. One follows Bill with the voiceover narration continuing uninterrupted. One follows part of Bill's thoughts, with all the sounds associated with it. And yet another section follows the events happening around Bill. As usual, the sounds overlap, preventing any one track from holding our attention. But in literally fracturing the screen, Hertzfeldt gives a more accurate representation of the conditions of mental illness than any film I can think of.

Everything Will Be OK is shows an animator growing. Though he is able to maintain the same artistic sensibility that has grown him an endearing cult, his subject matter is constantly evolving. Where Rejected stands as a wonderfully entertaining piece about just what happens when commercialism meets art, Everything Will Be OK goes for a more general sensibility. It's Hertzfeldt's best film to date, and I desperately hope he continues in this direction.

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Blogger terribletony said...

Great review... however I take issue with how you dismissed Hertzfeldt's other films as "not deep".

I beg to differ: how much of his work have you actually seen, aside from these crappy looking bootlegs you found online? Hertzfeldt's "The Meaning of Life" is darn near transcendent!

Also, the ending to "Rejected" - when viewed properly on DVD (ahem) - I always found rather profound.

12:24 AM

Blogger Dan E. said...

Alas, I have not seen The Meaning of Life. I have seen most of his other work, though, and I just didn't see anything there. I may need to rewatch a few of them, but I saw extremely well made animated shorts that didn't pose the sort of message I got from Everything Will Be OK.

8:14 PM

Blogger amy-jean said...

Dan, pick up the big DVD they got now over at
It has Meaning of Life and all of Hertzfeld's other stuff in one place and pound-for-pound was one of the top 10 DVDs from last year. It's the only way to really catch up with everything and you don't even have to be an animation dork to appreciate it :)


5:03 AM

Blogger Dan E. said...

Thanks for the link, Amy-Jean. I've been looking at that and The Animation Show Volumes 1 & 2 as my next possible purchases. I should stop being so cheap.

3:04 PM


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