Last night I watched Helvetica. I find fonts (I mean typography) very interesting. But the hour and half could have been folded nicely into a thirty minute PBS documentary of the same name. I understood where the movie was going from square one, and it never really took off as refreshing or enlightening. The history of the font (how quaint! how genius!) and the corroboration of its growth does not a movie make.
Like the font itself, a film is also made up of negative space. But it can’t overwhelm.
But what I did find compelling was its association with the post-modern break from structure. Leaving the serif behind, it is argued in the film, marked the brilliance of a period that was shedding the socialist cloak. Forgive me, I paraphrase. But it was fascinating to hear these artists, marred by age, sitting in front of their apple notebooks in clean white rooms with crisp straight lines, speak of time, and the way design seemed to tug society forward, rather society dictate design. Who is pulling the strings? Who is drawing these lines?
The flawed men in their perfect offices struck me as tragic. All alone, surrounded by such beauty, and trapped by it, and their age. Which leads me to what makes Helvetica worth watching:
“You’re always a child of your time, and you cannot step out of that.”