Bill and His Mental Ilnesses
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is an animated film with simple lines. Apart from not being for everyone, it is very philosophical with a narrative that the director wrote well. It focuses on the central theme of living beautifully every day. On the other hand, death makes it possible to appreciate life. Focusing on Bill, a man who was raised by his single mother, many mental illnesses, especially dementia, have plagued him and his family.
Most of his family members were stricken with mental illnesses that ended in suicide. Bill had a serious condition, such as a tumor, and the first attack found him in the hospital. For a time, a doctor was unable to understand his condition until Bill was sent home and got better. Like everyone else, Bill was terrified of death. He would spend hours thinking about it; it was so gripping that he would barely live.
Gradually, too, he started to become more optimistic and better about things. He is in good health. However, he had a stroke and returned to the hospital. This time, he started to lose his memories, slowly fading away, while realizing at the same time how beautiful life was. As the audience watched the monochromatic stick figure begin to transform into the real world, a paralyzed patient in a nearby bed felt pain.
Bill and His Father
Compared to that, most of the audience who watched It’s Such a Beautiful Day lived a beautiful life. On the other hand, Bill always thought that there was no room for holding grudges. He found his father, who had left him as a child with little memory left. His father is also in a similar condition. He was in a wheelchair and never remembered anything. Therefore, Bill spent time with him to say that he had forgiven his father.
Finally, his memories faded, leaving him free to die without regrets. In Bill’s first-person perspective, every point in the film affects the narrator. For example, when Bill loses consciousness or has a stroke, the narration stops or glitches. On that account, the narrator barely accepts death as the audience sees a montage of Bill’s life as if he had never died. In many interpretations, how would Bill’s life have been if he had never had a mental illness?
How did he survive to die, have children, and die of illness like the majority of people other than the average Bill? All the stars in the void that overpowers the sky at night are nothing. In the final montage, the film shows that an endless life has nothing to do with happiness.
When people find happiness in small things, it is death that gives life its significant value. In conclusion, Hertzfeldt managed to describe depression honestly. He combines it with the human condition in masterpieces of short films, which, if put together, will tell a coherent story. It’s Such a Beautiful Day asks the audience for humble acceptance and empathy with their mortality. In particular, the approach to the film’s aesthetic gives the film its universal appeal.
Hertzfeldt’s usual approach entails breaking the fourth wall on several occasions. It works so well in the context of the film to allow the audience to reflect on themselves. In a sense, too, the film provides a narrative about Bill’s experiences. It’s as if the audience can be anyone, be it observers, psychotherapists trying to heal the protagonist, or just a reflection. Such strips and the media will distort those roles at a later time.
It invests in being jumpy by throwing random visuals into the frame. It’s as if the audience is experiencing what Bill is experiencing. When the moments of Bill’s life move away from the audience, then the opportunity to reflect on life, both hallucinatory and physical, will occur. The irony is also common when Hertzfeldt’s dark comedy lapses. It is useful in contemplating the absurdity of the void in Bill’s life and the audience itself.
Typically, such investments reveal a lack of meaning and pointlessness in life. Every detail plays a role in the formation of the audience’s life, plays a role beyond the reach of the body to the mind, and is no longer complete or in unison. As a result, Hertzfeldt instills an emotional melancholy in the audience through Bill’s psychotherapy test. On a few occasions, It’s Such a Beautiful Day features another human voice asking Bill if he can describe the image.
However, the film always shows the image directly on the screen. As Bill can also see, the audience sees nothing but nonsense that is hard to understand. It becomes a distortion because the pieces of images that are very close together in forming a complete memory fragment the audience’s potentially wrong answer. Bill only knew that he had little time left to live. The inner workings between Bill and the audience realize that so far, both have used Bill’s death or illness to explore the cosmic.
In essence, Bill became a vessel for people. The film becomes a contemplation of humanity’s relationship with chaos. The universe became indifferent. It is that trait that plays an important role when talking about animation. With stick figure animation at its simplest, the film intentionally omitted to distracting details.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day also omits full-color editing at the risk of narrowing its appeal. Bill is just a simple stick figure wearing a hat; he has no color, no texture, and no thickness. Strictly speaking, he is just another black-and-white stick figure in a world full of other stick figures. The world that Hertzfeldt purposely created to be both lifeless and bland has become the most pleasing aesthetic choice in recent memory.
Every added detail further narrows Bill’s appeal, both in terms of his body, ethnicity, physique, culture, background, beliefs, and everything else. He became the most universal character in fiction by drawing in his most basic form. Just as the audience has the opportunity to be directly involved with the film, the audience also sees Bill in every frame as he enters his world. Bill’s depression is painful yet accurate, in addition to making the animation basic.
Hertzfeldt tells a very basic narrative consisting of everyday events or activities that affect Bill. Most of the sequence could make the audience think it is not very useful. Not to mention the peculiarities, it’s like watching a woman clean her apartment nonstop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, it is what it is. All the details that Bill might have remembered at the time, he would always forget at the turn of the day.
The Candid Portrait
By becoming a candid portrait of a depressed man, all such details ramble past Bill as his health begins to deteriorate. Clearly, Hertzfeldt understands the form of animation as well as anyone. As well as being the product of an artist, he also uses his approach to consistently produce great effects. He always plays by the rules about what he can do in the film. By following no guidelines except his artistic vision, the regular stick figures become a way of depicting childishness.
However, Hertzfeldt uses the figure to gain new powers. There is a moment when Bill slowly takes off his hat. He rubbed his head in a smooth, contrasting motion after receiving the bad news. It’s a real human moment, entirely achieved through such an animation approach. However, Hertzfeldt always carries a variety of tools around, arranging the scenes on screen while juxtaposing the visuals as they rotate side by side.
He intentionally drowns out his narration by creating a frenzied contrast to the classical background music. Video clips and still images also always integrate spices between animations, become distorted, and are not like other films visually. Hence, it serves as a look into the mind of a man who fails or is illogical. At a glance, it reveals how other people perceive the world. By being a reminder of how everyone is different and the same, it becomes a story told only through the flexibility of animation.
Above all, Hertzfeldt himself beautifully explains everything. In its final execution, It’s Such a Beautiful Day attempts to capture the beauty of life in general. Bill tried to make the most of his last few weeks. The film’s format changed in the final moments. The dull black-and-white image suddenly turns into live footage. The footage has true color, along with a window of vignettes that permeate all of Bill’s life.
A beautiful new world that Bill had never seen suddenly appeared. Gradually, the journey he made throughout his life became an eye-opening out-of-body experience. The sadness Bill felt suddenly turned into enlightened joy. When the real world is beautiful because it is imperfect, then the people who live in that world are temporarily beautiful. Hertzfeldt’s unforgettable montages tell almost daydream-like stories.
The ending seems to act as a denial of death. On the other hand, Bill’s experiences serve as a moment of bliss but are eternal. Death and time became strangers, and he learned everything he could still learn before finally closing the book. He becomes one with the universe, becomes limitless, and declares that immortality does not always make human beings meaningful. The simple, voyeuristic stick figure universally creates a strange intimacy that is an authentic portrayal of humanity’s connection to the universe and depression.
- Pattinson, M. (2016). Stick Figures Getting Sick: Don Hertzfeldt’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”. MUBI.
- Wolthuis, J. (2017). The Bitter Seriality of Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day. animationstudies 2.0.