Monday, August 12, 2013

From One Second to the Next

Last month, AT&T released a subtle, gut wrenching 30-second PSA about the dangers of texting while driving. In the clip, a mother tearfully recalls how her young son, Xzavier, was hit by a car while crossing the street. And although I had seen PSAs of this kind, this specific one resonated for reasons I couldn’t fully explain. Maybe it was the stark, simple set-up of the woman’s interview. Maybe it was the clip’s use of silence to evoke thought. When I noticed that Werner Herzog, my favorite living filmmaker, had directed the clip, everything made sense. A master storyteller spent 30 seconds knocking the wind out of me, in a way I’ve come to expect from him.

Last week, an extended version of Herzog’s PSA, From One Second to the Next, was released online for free. Having finished it a few moments ago and regained my composure, I thought it’d be worthwhile to write about it here. You see, although From One Second to the Next is indeed a PSA, presented by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, it feels far more like a Werner Herzog film than a forced agenda announcement, which is certainly good news for people who value compelling cinema.

From One Second to the Next spends 35 minutes telling four separate stories, all involving people who have been irreversibly effected by those who text and drive. The film begins with Xzavier’s story, and the added context of the expanded interview proves to be utterly devastating. In addition to Xzavier’s mother, Herzog (who remains off camera and silent throughout the film) interviews Xzavier’s sister, who recalls holding her brother’s hand as they walked down the street one afternoon. After a car ran a stop sign, she looked down and noticed Xzavier’s hand was no longer holding hers. The guilt and pain in the sister’s eyes say more than any confessional could.
I’m not going to divulge more details about Xzavier’s story, or the three remaining tales in the film. They are for you to discover, void of my input. Just know that Werner Herzog is a man well aware of what he’s doing. He knows that the stunning blue eyes of an Indiana good old boy will instantly put you at ease, but the man’s story will force you to question if he is indeed a good person. Herzog knows that by keeping the camera rolling, he may capture emotional devastation that a less seasoned filmmaker would miss. He knows that a haunting story is enough, and that narrative and editing flourishes are unneeded.

From One Second to the Next should be required viewing for any 15-year-old preparing to get his or her learner’s permit. In addition, it should be seen by anyone who owns a cell phone, and operates an automobile. Beyond that, if you appreciate captivating filmmaking, then you’ll respect the hell out of Herzog for what he’s done here. From One Second to the Next is the best short film I’ve viewed so far this year, and I’ve seen handfuls of them. Watch it with people you care about, with plenty of tissues to go around, or perhaps a stiff drink to nurse. Herzog doesn’t pull any punches with this one. A


Watch From One Second to the Next in full right here:

17 comments:

  1. I have this film on my later queue in my YouTube account. I saw that little 30-second PSA. Man, I was just silent as I thought about my next door neighbor. Even though he didn't go through the physical and emotional damage as this boy did. It still made me upset over the idea of texting and driving.

    What happened to him was that he was waiting for the light to turn green in the four-way stop that I often leave my street as well. Just as the light turned green and he was about to go... some fucking bitch hit his car and completely damaged it. Even though he got a strained neck and such, the loss of his car was horrible. All because lil' miss thang was texting and didn't see the red light.

    Nowadays whenever I'm in that four-way stop and the light turns green. I don't move immediately as I just look around to see if any cars are going to stop.

    There should be a law to ban cell phone usage in cars. Period.

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    1. Jesus man, that is horrible. I'm glad to hear he didn't suffer harsher injuries, but still, the point is it ALL could've been avoided if she wasn't texting and driving. What's interesting about Herzog's film is that he has the people tell you what they were texting when they caused in accident. And, of course, it's never something vital or life threatening. It's some innocuous statement that could easily be said in 5 minutes, when the car was stopped.

      Be interested to hear what you think of this movie after you watch it.

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  2. Well done, Alex. I'll definitely check this out. If it's appropriate, I'll show my students, too.

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    1. Thanks man. Oh, wow, I would love to hear the reaction your students have to it. I think it is perfectly acceptable to show a class. No foul language. No violence. Just storytelling.

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  3. Have you seen The Act of Killing? If so, do so at your earliest convenience. Believe the hype. It will dumbfound you.

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    1. Seeing it tomorrow actually. Very curious about it.

      (... what does the "*not" mean?)

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    2. Accidentally wrote "if so, do so at your earliest convenience," which don't make no damn sense. Meant to write "if not."

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks man. Glad you took the time to check it out.

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  5. Man, that 30-second clip alone was powerful. I'll definitely check out the full version soon.

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    1. Yeah man, really intense stuff. Leave it to Herzog to craft something that powerful in 30 seconds. The extended version only hits harder.

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  6. Say no more, I'm watching this right now. Herzog always knows how to tug at the ol' heartstrings. It's pleasing to see he's done such an important PSA, he really ought to do more of them.

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    1. Please come back and let me know what you think. I really value your opinion, especially as it relates to Herzog.

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  7. Hi Alex,

    I came across your article linked from IMDB. Herzog has been my favorite director since I saw the opening scenes in Aguirre: The Wrath of God back in the late 90s. I turned to Bravo, back when they still showed independent films, and saw a line of men marching through dense fog in the Andes. I was immediately spellbound and sat cross legged in front of the TV throughout Kinski’s spiral into madness.

    I heard about this PSA on NPR last Friday and watched it with my wife over the weekend. One of the things I’ve found most amazing has been the comment section on YouTube. Everyone was actually commenting thoughtfully about the film. I had never seen that before. Now, perhaps AT&T is doing an excellent job of removing ridiculous comments, or it may have just been too small of a sample, but I took that sampling of comments as a sign of the film’s incredible impact.

    I believe I heard Herzog recount a letter from a teenage girl who expressed that after seeing the film, she went home and asked her mom to stop texting and driving. I think this film really could have an impact on young drivers, and those around them. Of course, this is balanced against another recent Herzog film, Into the Abyss, in which young people committed senseless murders, and the chaos he describes in many of his films, directly so in Grizzly Man. It’s strange to say, but From One Second to the Next might be the most hopeful of Herzog’s films.

    -Casey

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    1. Hey Casey, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such an insightful comment. Love that you're as infatuated with Herzog's work as I am. He's easily my favorite living director, and wow, how cool to discover him via the opening shots of Aguirre. That's a great story.

      I hadn't noticed the YouTube comments, but checked them out after reading your comment. That really is amazing. YouTube comments usually bring out the worst in people, and those are just incredible.

      I think this PSA can change things. Even if it's with a small percent of the people who see it. It's a very, very important film.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

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