Everything Will Be OK

Don Hertzfeldt, 2006

Don Hertzfeldt is the creator of cult classic Rejected, which charted the fictionalized breakdown of the animator in a series of hilarious, increasingly bizarre (and very quotable) vignettes, all supposedly made for advertising but rejected outright. Everything Will Be OK refines the animation techniques and tells a genuinely affecting story. It depicts the life of Bill as he undergoes treatment for an unspecified mental condition. His mundane existence gradually becomes a terrible trial as he suffers from hallucinations, surreal dreams and loss of bodily control.

Hertzfeldt’s drawing style is simplistic, animating stick figures directly on paper, with lighting effects and still photographs adding fascinating textures. Bill’s mental disorder is represented by various “windows” on the screen, achieved with multiple exposures and other old fashioned in-camera effects. The piece itself is reminiscent of a silent film, with voice-over narration instead of lip-synched dialogue in all but a few dream sequences. All of the drawing and most of everything else is done by Hertzfeldt himself, taking him several years to make each short film.

Bill collapses in the street

Bill visits his ex-girlfriend

Bill and his ex-girlfriend hang out in the park

Mostly they talked about death. They agreed that being buried seemed too claustrophobic, and Bill didn’t want to be cremated afted he’d read that the intense heat boils fluids in the skull until your head explodes. He decided that he’d want his body shot off into space, in a rocket ship. He figured it’d be too expensive to launch the weight of his entire body, but maybe just sending his head into space would be good enough. Preferably in front of a little window. His ex-girlfriend said she’d be really creeped-out if she knew Bill’s severed head was floating around above her in space.

There is something about the primitive drawing style that, far from betraying, actually intensifies the emotional impact. Perhaps it is the candid honesty of such a style. The in-camera effects are impressive, certainly far more beautiful than modern computer techniques, but most importantly they portray what I can only imagine disintegrating sanity might be like. As the numerous “windows” begin to vie for attention, along with a multifaceted soundtrack, the effect is bewildering. Sadly I did not get a chance to experience it on the big screen, but I recommend using headphones for an immersive experience.

Bill miraculously survives his ordeal, and will soon be appearing in I Am So Proud Of You, the second chapter of three. Everything Will Be OK and other Hertzfeldt films are available on DVD from Bitter Films.

Four and a half brains

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