Spotlights

A distinctive style, a remarkable creative drive, historic achievements or totally new perspectives: we pay tribute to those ambassadors of the short filmic form, who have left their mark on the international short film scene with their outstanding works, either recently or over many years, with detailed solo programmes or film series.

US animation artist Don Hertzfeldt already made film history at a young age with his eye for detail and his nearly epic, detailed, naively absurd short films that explore existential depths. Since 1995 he has been making films, the like of which had never been seen before – with the captivating clarity of simple strokes on white paper. In cooperation with the Österreichisches Filmmuseum we dedicate this year’s Spotlight to Hertzfeldt.

Don Hertzfeldt

“An animated film is not just a random series of mindless and self-indulgent violent cartoon images meant only to be enjoyed by young children and people with mental handicaps, but is a serious, valid art medium all into itself, in which the artist is free to explore purity of the film medium.” – Right after a cloudlike creature utters these impudent words, robots begin to attack: a bloody science fiction setting, created with the combination of scrawly lines, minimalist colour fields and a contrasting, bombastic seeming soundtrack that is so typical of Don Hertzfeldt.
Concentrated and excessive, with an eye for detail and a propensity for the epic, naively absurd and exploring existential depths – since 1995 Californian Hertzfeldt (*1976) has been creating films, the likes of which had never been seen before. With the captivating clarity of simple strokes on white paper,  his early films open up an animation cosmos, condensing the commercial moving picture culture with a sharp blade, satirically pushing it up and unmasking it – the slip box of genre standards, patterns of dating TV and the horror of infantile children’s programmes. His films first reach a high point in Rejected (2000), a diabolic, Oscar nominated collection of the artist’s sabotage-like attempts at working in children’s TV and advertising.
With The Meaning of Life (2005), the trilogy It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2006-12) and Hertzfeldt’s latest work, World of Tomorrow (2015), the horizon widens. These are epic tableaus of the human condition, however remaining true to a minimalistic form, which conjures up the whole universe, the future and the quarries of memory onto the screen with an astonishing power of immersion. Rarely are animations this authentic, while still letting us forget that we are only seeing lines in motion.
The show, a collaboration between Österreichisches Filmmuseum and VIS, is the first retrospective of this artist’s work in Austria. In addition to the show Don Hertzfeldt will give a master class, where he will speak about his creative process, his work on The Simpsons and the graphic novel The End of the World – he will also present his latest work, World of Tomorrow, a Sundance prize-winner.

(Alejandro Bachmann, Austrian Film Museum)