The Meaning of Life is a 35mm animated short film, written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt in 2005. The epic twelve minute film is the end result of almost four years of production and tens of thousands of drawings, single-handedly animated and photographed by Hertzfeldt.
Like all of Hertzfeldt’s films, The Meaning of Life was photographed entirely in-camera, without the use of computers, post-production compositing, or digital tools. The special effects were created via multiple exposures, optical light effects, and trick photography. Though working with an antique camera, Hertzfeldt often had to invent new techniques to capture his visuals.
In the film, the evolution of the human race is traced from prehistory (mankind as blob forms), through today (mankind as teeming crowds of selfish, fighting, or lost individuals), to hundreds of millions of years into the future as our species evolves into countless new forms; all of them still behaving the same way. The film concludes in the extreme future, with two creatures (apparently an adult and child subspecies of future human), having a conversation about the meaning of life on a colorful shore.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and toured film and animation festivals in 2005-06. Though its abstract nature puzzled some critics, it received almost universally positive reviews. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the film “the closest thing on film yet to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
In 2006, The Meaning of Life was remastered and restored in high definition for inclusion on the DVD, “Bitter Films Volume 1”, a compilation of Don Hertzfeldt’s short films from 1995-2005. Special features relating to The Meaning of Life include a time-lapse documentary called “Watching Grass Grow” of Hertzfeldt animating the film (apparently over the course of a few years), another documentary about the creation of the special effects narrated by Hertzfeldt, original pencil tests, and dozens of pages devoted to Hertzfeldt’s original sketches, storyboards, notes, and deleted ideas from the film. The DVD is available exclusively from the Bitter Films website, http://www.bitterfilms.com. —Wikipedia
Visit Don Hertzfeldt’s official website at http://www.bitterfilms.com.
Don Hertzfeldt (born August 1, 1976) is the creator of many short animated films, including the Academy-Award nominated Rejected and Everything Will Be OK. His animated films have received over one hundred and fifty awards and have been presented around the world. Before the age of thirty, his films were already the subject of several career retrospectives. He was the youngest director named in the “They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They” list of “The 100 Important Animation Directors” of all time, and in 2010 he received the San Francisco International Film Festival’s “Persistence of Vision” Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 33.
The popularity of Hertzfeldt’s work is unprecedented in the history of independent animation and his films are frequently quoted and referenced in pop culture. In 2009, the Sundance Film Festival noted, “If cinephiles think shorts don’t generate the same sort of hype and fanbase as feature films, they obviously haven’t heard of Don Hertzfeldt.”
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Animator Don Hertzfeldt traces a line through a darkly comic valley of existential dread.