Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt.
Written by: Don Hertzfeldt.
Starring: Winona Mae (Emily Prime), Julia Pott (Emily).
I’ve seen Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow about five times now – and I’ll probably watch it quite a few more times until my Vimeo rental is up in a few weeks. The film is only 17 minutes long – which is what allows it to be endlessly rewatched – but it’s so densely packed that most features cannot claim to anywhere near as complex as this film is. It’s a funny, sad, tragic, intelligent, poignant animated sci-fi short, which mixes together primitive stick figures drawings, with some rather complex digital animation. The film looks great from start to finish, and Hertzfeldt doesn’t waste a second of his time. Hertztfeldt has been doing his short animated films since the 1990s – often to great acclaim (including an Oscar nomination) – and to a loyal, but small audience. I only “discovered” him myself with his first, and only, feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day (which is actually three previous shorts, edited together, to get to the hour mark and qualify as a feature). That film was unique, haunting, funny, sad and wonderful. World of Tomorrow is even better. In short, it’s an animated masterwork.
I don’t think I could spoil World of Tomorrow if I tried – it’s such a heady movie, that takes surprising turns, and only reveals itself gradually, that even knowing its secrets in no way diminishes the film (in fact, it enhances them – as multiple viewings make clear). The film is basically about a young girl named Emily, in our time, who is visited by a clone of herself from the future. The two talk, the child basically not understanding anything her future clone is telling her, and their conversation is at times funny, and at times unbearably sad – as we gradually get to see the horrifying new reality that humans live under in the future – and how even that is slowly coming to an end, as the clones have glitches, and the world is on the brink of disaster. The clone from the future has no real concept of what our reality was like – and that makes her a tragic figure – someone who thinks they are living life to the fullest, when in reality they have a pale imitation. The child has no clue, and is just trying really hard to be happy and play.
World of Tomorrow is in some ways an absurd film. The film takes several bizarre turns, especially when detailing some of clone Emily’s companions over the years, and the child Emily is constantly threatening to derail the conversation with her non-sequiturs, that make no sense, unless of course you have a child, and you realize that yes – this is precisely how they talk. They live in their own little world.
I realize now that I probably haven’t really done World of Tomorrow justice. It’s almost impossible to. It’s such a bizarre, visually stunning and unique movie that in reality, all you have to do is watch it and see for yourself. It’s available on Vimeo right now (in Canada, $4.99 gets you a rental for a month – and although that is the price of renting a feature most places, trust me it’s worth every penny – and you’ll probably spend more time watching it over the next month than you would a feature. I know I will). This is one of the best short films in recent memory – a true masterwork, and one of the most unique films of the year.