reviews February 13, 2018

The Happy Film review: about happiness and everything else

I don’t know if it has anything to do with turning 26 this year, and feeling like I need to get better at this adultish kind of thing, but lately, I’ve been more interested in understanding what makes me happy and what it’s happiness to human beings.

So happiness has been kind of a current topic on Melted lately, as you might already notice. And that’s because it’s connected to everything in life, including design.

Following that line of thought, I realized that I’ve been trying to watch The Happy Film for a long time but never found the right opportunity. That is, until last night. I heard great things and had high expectations about it, mostly because it’s a Stefan Sagmeister documentary.

It is safe to say that is one of those things that blew me away so I wanted to share my opinion with you in case you haven’t seen it yet (even if you have, read it anyway, you might even see things differently afterward).

Here are 5 reasons why you should watch the happy film too:

1. A sneak peek behind Sagmeister work

This documentary is about Sagmeister’s quest for happiness, particularly, his own happiness.

Nonetheless, you get to see small bits of his work. Him working in his studio, in remote places like Indonesia, talking about his career and even his opinion on Jesica Walsh. Also, we get to see a behind-the-stage process of the Happy Show, a major exhibition that was the result of everything that Sagmeister experienced in his path to finding happiness.

2. Seeing behind the designer

Most of the times when we see someone we admire, we forget that they are humans. So, I was particularly surprised to see that Sagmeister chose to show himself as a person trying to find meaning and not only as a designer on a quest to solve a complex and exciting problem.

3. Scientific and social perspective on happiness

This aspect is related to a more curious and science-related side of mine, but I enjoyed learning about several tested and documented techniques associated with happiness.

When discovering that is possible to train the mind like you train the body, Sagmeister attempts three ways of experiencing happiness: meditation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering drugs. We get to see all these stages and hear a first-person testimony as he goes along with them.

4. Human vulnerability

As I have mentioned before, we get to see a side we wouldn’t see normally.

Sagmeister looks straight to the camera and talks about his insecurities, the loss of his mother, some love encounters, and some failures too. We also experience empathy as he tries to understand how to make sense of the film and how to deal with the death of one of his friends and directors of the documentary: Hillman Curtis.

5. Beautiful transitions

Last but not least, there are beautiful transitions between moments of the film. Using typography, animals, and silhouettes, Sagmeister brought in some delightful pieces of everyday life meets graphic design. These are totally worth seeing and they majorly contribute to the overall aesthetics of the documentary.

I purposely didn’t go into much detail in these 5 points since I truly believe it could end up killing the thrill of watching it.

But, please, do yourself a favor and find some time this week to watch it. Afterwards, come back and share your opinion with me, ok?

I’ll leave you with Sagmeister’s final thoughts on (t)his happy film:

This film started as a graphic design project six years ago. And somehow it all became about me. I guess I could have continued designing stuff that I know how to do. It would have been so much easier. Trying to chase after something more meaningful turned out to be a big pain in the ass. But it also did make my life fuller.

Stefan Sagmeister

PS: There’s also a book about this experience. It’s already on my wishlist and it will possibly be on ours too, once you see the film. Check it out.

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