Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Directed by Don Hertzfeldt, United States, 2000, 9:21
Source: Bitter Films

I must say that experimental films are not my area of expertise, so when I saw that I was blogging about one, I was totally unsure of what to write about. The genre classification of "experimental" is so vast and all inclusive that there could be upwards of 30 different classifications under that wide umbrella. Overwhelmed and relentlessly searching for an experimental short that I felt strong enough to write about, then I remembered a video that had my friends and I laughing in high school.

Don Hertzfeldt's "Rejected" is a humorous-animated-experimental short film (sort of a mouthful)that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 for best animated short, and won 27 awards from various festivals . The basic premise of the film is an animator who was asked to animated commercials for various companies, but the animations were so bad that they were immediately rejected. This rejection causes the cartoons to become destabilized and run into each other as the creator presumably loses his mind and potentially life.

The overall nature of the piece itself is very experimental, the idea of bad cartoons getting rejected, causing pain to the creator, but we only see the animations. In class we talked about the Non-sequitur, which translates to "does not follow," and these little surreal vignettes have no connection to each other and lack connection within themselves individually. We first see a man with a giant spoon that is clearly too large for his tiny bowl, in walks a banana that exclaims, "I am a BANANA!" This advertisement was for the family learning channel. It is this awkward unconnected humor that drives each little section. Some of the other shorts within the short include blood fighting, a bleeding anus, a man being beat to death for not wearing a silly hat, angry ticks shooting out of nipples, a baby falling down the steps, dancing in blood, and a few more.

These unconnected and sometimes disturbing visions remind me of the Dali piece "Un chien andalou." However the experimenting doesn't stop there, the animation techniques at the end of the film, when the creator begins to go crazy, are very edgy and incredibly well executed. The drawing begin interacting with the paper in many ways: the paper crumbles and closes in on them, two figures knock on the paper's surface pushing it out, and finally the black hole the sucks in all of the animations before closing in on itself. These unorthodox techniques break what I would call the "fourth wall" of animation by openly showcasing that they are merely drawings, but the individual characterizations are in a dire situation (end of their world) just as their creator is (possibly the end of his world).

Overall I'd say this film is pretty amazing. Some of the awkward connections and random bits of dialogue are very very funny and creative. The animation techniques are almost jaw dropping. It is easy to see why this short did so well in critics' eyes as well as ordinary viewers. This short has developed a cult following (similiar to that of Rocky Horror Picture Show). This film is a success, and in my mind one of the more enjoyable (still absurd) experimental shorts I have ever seen


mckinley said...

I think that non-sequiturs can often provide a comic irony to films, stories, etc. However, I also think that they often serve more of a purpose than solely for comedy. What do you think this film was trying to do or show through its compilation of such seemingly unrelated, random events?

Justin said...

Clever film, did not see things as Steve but turns out he has a very interesting and convincing perspective.

Mike R said...

The awkward humor and connections were the main reason I liked this short so much. The experimental short genre is a difficult one to classify, but it seems this short encompasses that mixture of qualities and brings a clarity and joy to the viewer.

Anonymous said...

The blog posted raised some interesting points and created a new perspective. The analysis is a well thought out and carefully presented. Excellent argument and brilliant analysis.

Anonymous said...

This website is great, I was searching for info about this film(one of my favorites) and stumbled upon this. How does this work, there are some great films here?

Drew Rosensweig said...

One of the obvious antecedents of this seems to be the classic "Duck Amock," which might be one of the first animated shorts to directly comment on the fact that it is a drawing, where the characters are not only imagined but controlled by someone else.

Lindsay Z. said...

This is great! I love that it was nominated for an Oscar, since when we think "animated short" these days, we tend to think of a Pixar-type thing that probably took a lot of people a lot of time to do with really fancy computer programs...and then there's this, with a refreshingly simple style of execution but a great idea.