Don Hertzfeldt makes animated films, and I became aware of him through his Academy Award-nominated short film from 2000, “Rejected.” This short has been viewed millions and millions (and millions!) of times on YouTube. and deservedly so. It’s dark and brilliant and ridiculously funny. It’s well worth investing 9 minutes in. If you’ve never seen it, you should watch it. I’m embedding it at the end of this post. Do it.
Whether you should watch Hertzfeldt’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” well, that’s another matter. I saw that it was added to Netflix and eagerly checked it out. It started out as funny and dark and brilliant as “Rejected.”
Here’s the thing: I love Hertzfeldt’s style of dark, twisted humor. In fact, I’ve often plumbed the same depths in my humor writing “career.”
But whenever I’m writing stuff in this vein, I’m always conscious of how limiting it is. There are only so many gags that can end with someone’s limbs falling off and blood spurting out, or someone being killed unexpectedly in some absurdist way. IMO, of course.
It’s not like Hertzfeldt doesn’t have things to say. He does, and he says many of them brilliantly. He also uses a lot of interesting, creative animation craft and technique in “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” resulting in sequences that alternate between arresting beauty and dark malevolence. I also find his use of classical music here inspired (just as it is in “Rejected.”)
But, man, I found getting through the hour-long running time of this film to be a slog. It starts to feel like Hertzfeldt’s absurdist darkness works at cross purposes with his attempt to present a coherent theme (the film was stitched together from several short films).
Let’s ruminate on the randomness and isolating forces of modern life, and then a character gets run over by a train. Ha ha! See?! I’m glad you think that’s funny, because it happens over and over and over again (literally, with the same train).
Watch “Rejected.” If you love it as much I do, you may want to consider giving “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” a try. Or you might want to savor and celebrate “Rejected” as a singular work, without feeling the need to supersize it.