Friday, May 07, 2010

"Helvetica" (2007) - Movie Review

Not often do we sit by the couch and think about the air we breathe and the light that spears through the customary curtain in our living room. Not often do we adore and admire the shape of the letters than the content it carries. Gary Hustwit omits the meaning of a word and corners our eyes to see the shape, design and a poetry which goes into this universal font which goes right by our eyes day in and day out.

Hustwit exposes the community that does not come out when you read the ubiquitous presence of any word anywhere. Back in the olden days when printing and typing were the mode of expression of texts, the design began to formulate these diagrams for scrambled pieces for a completion. Helvetica was born in 1957 and no one knew the extreme nature of its pandemic spread.

A documentary which does not become an overflow of information and trivia, does not take much to show the font as we walk on the street or glare at any text. It has attained a monopoly in the designer arena leaving nothing much of a choice in picking something for a sign, poster or simple text. What is so mesmerizing about this font? What is the beauty these graphic designers of different generations qualm about the presence and deviation of this system of shaping a letter? All are there in “Helvitica”.

More of the films that becomes intimate with its viewers are the deep down buried forgotten incidents in them. For me this brought the time when PC was a big deal and the first one I lay my hands on got the chance for me to dig in the Windows 3.1. In that was the text editing tool where MS Word did not step in. The idea of so many fonts to choose from was an experience by itself. Soon enough I was beginning try the hundred different fonts on silliest texts. The medium through which I was able to do that was the generation in progress. And by now, as simple keyboards strokes with mouse clicks, the process is faster, smoother and precise. The ancient days of carving stones, steels to get a proper print has been erased by the technology.

This sudden growth is not despised by the community but they strongly say which I agree upon completely is that the technology makes it faster and easier on the process but the imagination comes through the artist. Through these different people we understand how the art of typefacing has its debates and arguments on this monster which has spread across the entire globe.

One part of community, the modernists marvel this font. The space in which it got designed and the clarity of that might not be amusing for certain audience. The designers speak that language and if you can be a recipient of that unexplainable and true feeling, “Helvitica” is the documentary you got to watch. The postmodernists are fed up with this over usage and they take order in it and spin around for chaotic beauty. Their conversations are nothing short of interesting.

“Helvitica” has some brilliant editing and carefully selected music to take us to a tour in an art gallery and a vacation of different kind in our living room. Before you know it, there is a hunt for the texts and the art involved in it. In the film we sparsely read rather look at the structure in which the alphabets are aligned, separated, conjoined and the sense of enigma in the wholeness of it.

I have been volunteering for a program wherein I have to teach the sixth graders the concept of global market place. Despite my insignificant knowledge of it, they provide a guidebook on the contents and activities planned for each session. The very first one was the explain the trade, imports and exports while the activity was to find simple items in and around your house to see the country that manufactures it. The hunt began and almost 99% I found was made in China. They were there all along these years and never noticed the enormity in which these all come from one country. After that I saw products made from China everywhere. Helvetica will be everywhere when you are done with this film.

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