World of Tomorrow

MPAA Rating: NR | Rating: ★★★★★
Release year: 2015
Genre: Animated, Sci-Fi, Short Director: Hertzfeld

World of Tomorrow is a bizarre post-postmodern parable. When a film can be prophetic, humorous, elegant, simple, quirky, and ambitious all at once, without ever devolving into incoherence, that’s something worth viewing.

It’s difficult to describe World of Tomorrow without explaining every single scene and plot point, but a brief summary will do: a young girl, Emily, is visited by one of her clones from the future. Their conversation and travels are documented here for our enjoyment and contemplation. Love, memory, consumerism, technology, relationship, and existence itself are all analyzed through the peculiar conversation of a clone and a toddler. Emily Prime is voiced by an actual toddler, imbuing her with authentic innocence and charm of youth. The future clone of Emily talks in a melancholic monotone, adding to the deadpan humor of the script.

Animator Don Hertzfeldt has packed more ideas into this 16-minute short film than many full-length features even dare to consider, without ever feeling disjointed or didactic. The closest thematic parallel is La Jetee, Chris Marker’s 1962 experimental short film about time travel seen through a montage of still images. While Marker’s film is in bleak black-and-white, World of Tomorrow swirls with vivid shape and color, a constantly-moving collage of abstraction. This is a bunch of talking stick figures transposed on swirling digital animation. And it’s incredible.

I called the film “prophetic” above, and I mean it in both senses of the biblical term: a glimpse into a potential future, as well as a call for repentance and justice in the present. World of Tomorrow is both hopeful and pessimistic, darkly funny and poignant. There’s a scene where the future-clone Emily shows her toddler self a view of the future, where people are able to look through time via screens. This future is simply more people looking at more screens, an infinite black hole of screen-watching. I think of myself and my children as I type this on my laptop, a technology that already feels strangely outdated despite being less than 5 years old. I think of my 6-year-old son and his future, where a “phone” will always be cord-less and able to take pictures, where iPads are his primary reading devices, where WiFi and social media will be outdated by the time he’s an adult. What does the world of tomorrow hold for him? I can’t even imagine. I hope it’s a beautiful day.

You can rent World of Tomorrow for 30 days for $3.99 at Vimeo. I highly recommend watching the film more than once, as it reveals new insights and humor with each viewing.

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