Watch a Great Short Film From Don Hertzfeldt, The Meaning of Life

Slate's Culture Blog
March 5 2013 4:44 PM

Watch a Great Short Film From Don Hertzfeldt

A scene from The Meaning of Life.
A scene from The Meaning of Life.

Still from YouTube.

Animator Don Hertzfeldt may not have gotten the recognition he deserved for It’s Such a Beautiful Day, which was my pick for the best animated film of last year, but for those just discovering him there’s still a lot more material out there. This week the Sundance Screening Room has made his 2005 short The Meaning of Life available to stream in HD for one week only.

The Meaning of Life marks a transition from Hertzfeldt’s more strictly surrealist early shorts, like Billy’s Balloon and the Oscar-nominated Rejected, to his more existential work in It’s Such a Beautiful Day. Which is not to say you should come to The Meaning of Life expecting to find all the answers.

Along with the short, Sundance has uploaded the behind-the-scenes documentary “Watching Grass Grow.” The title is honest—not everyone will want to watch it from beginning to end—but the doc does convey a sense of the nearly four years of painstaking work it took to animate the 12-minute short. Whether imagining the silly sounds of aliens—it’s worth putting on a good pair of headphones to watch The Meaning of Life, by the way—or drawing dudes obsessed with fish sticks, Hertzfeldt is nothing if not dedicated.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.