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Daniel Olmos [Celluloid 04.01.15] scifi animation

As I write this, I’m on my fifth viewing of World of Tomorrow. I've watched it so many times out of choice and the film was just released to the public last night. After so many viewings, I’m certain I’ve never watched anything - be it a feature film, or TV episode, or short - over and over like this in such a short time span.

In fact, I’m certain I’ve never watched anything quite like this before.

Don Hertzfeldt is no stranger to high concept short films. His previous work has earned him over 200 awards and an oscar nomination, not to mention he created what is easily the best Simpsons intro sequence ever made. But this is simply the finest work he has done so far, it’s an almost transcendental 16 minutes of cerebral sci-fi that does what only the very in best speculative fiction can do; it uses the freedoms of the genre to meditate and comment on the human condition right here and right now.

In the film, a young girl, Emily is contacted by a clone of herself from the distant future who then guides her through a futuristic landscape and they wander through various memories and prophecies. During these metaphysical travels, Emily the child and Emily the adult trade memories and the lines between them are blurred. The film repeatedly mentions consciousness and time and the relationship between them is really at the core of World of Tomorrow.

Through Emily the child and her adult clone Hertzfeldt manages to distill a life, or indeed, many lives into 16 minutes. But that’s not all, he also crams in space travel, time travel, possible paradoxes, robots, aliens, mass communications technology, class struggle and armageddon in there too!

It’s remarkable that with such a simple animation style Hertzfeldt creates such a complicated and mature piece of work, and it is a testament to his genius that even though this short film touches on a myriad of different subjects and is brimming with so many ideas it never once feels cluttered or messy. The dialogue is poetic and the atmosphere is melancholic, but never mournful, and Hertzfeldt manages to balance the existentialism with plenty of humour and humility.

This is the director’s first digital film and the transition isn’t jarring, it’s still very much a Don Hertzfeldt film in aesthetics as well as tone and subject matter, but it feels more refined, leaner and more effective. Like his others, it’s a film of many layers that can be enjoyed on different levels but World of Tomorrow is evidence of an artist truly at the top of his game, and one of a few filmmakers who is really willing to push boundaries and ask difficult questions. Iin a world of caped superheroes and big budget 3d spectacles it’s directors like Hertzfeldt and perhaps Charlie Brooker who are concerning themselves not so much with what technology will bring us but perhaps more with what it could take away.

As it stands this is a unique, powerful and moving film. Inventive, crazy and psychedelic, it’s as addictive and as stirring as a great song, it’s quite simply a stunning visual poem that, if there’s any justice, will be loved and discussed for many years to come. Highly recommended.

World of Tomorrow is available on Vimeo On Demand now.

Recommended Release: The Congress

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