Review: Helvetica

Documentaries usually prospect to tell a story of certain significant events or people; they can also be awfully mundane, or incredibly entertaining. Helvetica is the result of the outstanding prophecy from the award-winning director Gary Hustwit, which describes the ups and downs of a typeface, one of the most used typefaces in the English language that is. But the question is, will a documentary about a font provide any sort of entertainment?

Helvetica produces a cheerfully engaging investigation into the world’s most ubiquitous typeface, uncovering a minor hit storm in the world of graphic design as well as broadening the cinematic and analytical potential of the documentary form in the process. Tracing the roots of the Helvetica back to a small factory in Switzerland in the 1950s, the film charts its rise as a staple of corporate logos, warning signs and any form of communication that requires a direct and functional mode of expression. At personal level, I’m not a designer by any stretch, but have always been fascinated by the use of language and text. It really is empowering for a non-talent like myself to observe the proliferation of the democratizing of the tools of production. It has caused me to look much more closely at the written word in the world around me. It explores the way a typeface can polarize a society. While the topic may be considered mundane to some, this films’ treatment of it was anything but that. By the end of the movie, I felt artistically inspired on so many levels, and I definitely place it as one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen recently.

Artfully photographed, sharply edited and propelled by a gorgeous rock soundtrack, Helvetica is a film that owes probably more to philosophy than style. Don’t let the ordinary subject matter put you off. This is one of the wittiest, most diligently researched, mysteriously intelligent and quietly captivating documentaries of the new millennium. Helvetically recommended.

The Bottom Line


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sushi on June 13, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Is it recent? Haven’t heard of it before. Will look it up.


  2. Posted by Sushi on June 13, 2008 at 2:18 am

    I just have to tell you how much I love your blog. Honestly I dont have time lately to look up things and your blog always manages to keep me updated on literary things =)


  3. Whoa!! They should have shown us this in typography class! Where did you see it?


  4. Seems like an interesting movie to check out, I will add it to my download list..


  5. A movie about a font, that rates an A-? Damn.. seems like worth checking out for sure.


  6. Posted by sarah on June 15, 2008 at 6:12 am

    wow i have just stumbled upon your blog and i’m extremely amazed and just wowed by your site man =| i dont know if its the vocab you use that attracts me so much or just your style of writing.. anyway i just wanted to say that 🙂 good job.


  7. @Sushi

    Pretty much. It was released in 2007.

    Awww, thank you so much for the compliment. I’m so happy that I became your source of all new and hip. Glad to be of service anytime 🙂


    Hold on! You had a typography class? Do tell.


    Smart move coming from you Marzouq, as always 😛


    I really hope I’m not hyping it too much but I’m pretty sure you will find at least enjoyable.


    Thank you soooo much sweety, and welcome to my blog. Don’t be a stranger now, your visit is always appreciated ^_^


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