As The Simpsons continues to somehow remain on the air, the show's creators have increasingly turned to guest animators to spice up their "couch gag" openings. Sometimes, this facilitates entertaining crossovers, while at other times it can lead to elaborate games of "spot the references." Don Hertzfeldt took this opportunity to create something much stranger. His opening, in addition to featuring an anthropomorphized clump of Marge's hair screeching "all hail the dark lord o the twin moons," features incisive commentary on long running franchises that become increasingly lazy and derivative of themselves as they shamble along.
That couch gag only hints at what Hertzfeldt is capable of, however. In 2012, he released a slightly modified compilation of three of his short films as a feature-length film titled "It's Such a Beautiful Day." It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most bizarre and emotionally affecting things that I've ever seen.
Hertzfeldt's narration chronicles the story of Bill, a simple stick figure with a top hat that finds himself in the throes of an ambiguous and quickly worsening mental condition. Bill's anxiety and frustration regarding mundane, everyday occurrences is surprisingly easy to relate to. The film is stuffed with profound one-off statements, including the notion that mindlessly and repetitive tasks, like daily chores, hygienic routines, and watching television that doesn't actually interest us, may actually comprise most of our lives.
Terrifying and unexpected imagery abounds as Bill becomes increasingly detached from reality. A repeated loop of a boxer's head being split open caught me completely off guard and things only get more unnerving from there. Bill's struggle to hold onto important memories and navigate through his surroundings is far scarier and more impacting than any horror movie that I've seen. The matter-of-fact nature in which Hertzfeldt slips in surreal details (example: "Bill picked up his new medication, went home, and masturbated for seven hours") also creates many darkly comedic moments.
This movie also includes a handful of vivid, joyful moments that Bill is still capable of experiencing. A simple scene with his ex-girlfriend visiting him in the hospital and sharing some ice cream sandwiches with him almost made me tear up a bit. The ending, which I won't describe in detail here, also subverted my expectations by making me ruminate on what life could be like if it never ended.
Watch this, people!