Film Review: Don Hertzfeldt’s ME Reviewed by Trish Connelly

Transitioning from surrealist short animation comedy videos to lengthier, poignant animated films that have been nominated for Academy Awards, Don Hertzfeldt has grown to embrace a broader scope of meditative themes in his work. From a generation that grew up instantly recognizing “My spoon is too big!”, the Austin-based filmmaker and writer has since crafted over a dozen other shorts using experimental techniques to convey humorous and tender stories depicting the human condition. 


Describing the opportunity to be one of the very first audiences to witness Don Hertzfeldt’s upcoming animation film, Me, on the big screen at Austin Film Society as “fortunate” feels like a massive understatement. Originally commissioned to be an animated short in collaboration with new music from an (unnamed) rock band, Hertzfeldt’s plans got derailed as the musical act underwent scrutiny after allegations directed towards them. Rather than trashing the project, Don Hertzfeldt spent another year re-editing and honing in on other ideas to finally emerge with an astounding 23 minute presentation of Me


With no trailer or photos accessible to the public (aside from the title in white contrasted against a black background), Hertzfeldt’s preferred direction for the audience to experience Me was to essentially go in entirely blind. What transpired was a visceral experience of the animator’s rendition of a musical; with no dialogue, Me consists of syncopated rhythmic drums, operatic sopranos and improvised sounding jazz compositions layered with daring and transfixing visuals. How Hertzfeldt manages to peel away layers of philosophical questions around the notions of community, death and a meaningful life is even more staggering by the use of (generally) simplistic and crudely yet charmingly drawn characters. Perhaps more of an immediately stunning experience, there’s no doubt that Me deserves multiple viewings to parse through Hertzfeldt’s existential and thought provoking work. 


With a Q+A facilitated by Austin Film Society’s Lars Nilsen, Hertzfeldt discussed the choosings and inspiration behind the tracks incorporated in Me, the process of working independently, knowing when (or if) a work is ever finished as well as the importance of an audience’s reaction and conversation upon completion of a film to a creator. With subdued humor, thoughtful pauses and palpable humility, Don Hertzfeldt is a creative breath of fresh air and a gentle reminder that the world is often loud and exhausting, so why not slow down for just a moment and appreciate the here and now.



You can also catch upcoming screenings of new films like Perfect Days, The Taste of Things, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus, Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World and more at Austin Film Society.

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