World of Tomorrow (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

World of Tomorrow (2015)

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Little Emily gets a call on the phone and on the other line is her descendant - cloned from Emily for multiple generations.  Emily Clone reached out to Emily Prime to help make sense of the destruction of Emily Clone's world and the death of her loved one.  Don Hertzfeldt writes and directs World of Tomorrow.

I miss my wonderI want to approach World of Tomorrow with wonder.  Here is a movie which features the destruction of an entire civilization but has so many beautiful moments glimpsing what we're capable of as a species.  Yet I ended World of Tomorrow in the pains of nostalgia.  Even though writer / director Don Hertzfelt created an ode to living in the moment I couldn't help but let my thoughts and emotions drift back to the fragile wonder of his previous film It's Such a Beautiful Day.

Don't bother searching the archives for a review of ISaBD.  One of the regrets I left World of Tomorrow with was the reminder that I didn't write one.  But this seems counter-intuitive to the crux of WoT where, in a heartbreaking monologue, Emily Clone (Julia Pott) urges her genetic ancestor Emily Prime (Winona Mae) to embrace the now because, "Now is the envy of the dead."

Hertzfeldt captures the way our minds cling to memory while still distorting the view of what "really" happened.

Hertzfeldt captures the way our minds cling to memory while still distorting the view of what "really" happened.  The shape is fuzzy even if the feeling is immediate.

Now I'm sitting here wondering why I didn't write about ISaBD and why I don't feel the same connection with WoT.  I think the answer lies in WoT's storytelling DNA.  It's designed to be misunderstood because one of the leads is so present in the joy of now that I can't help but feel connected to the older character lost in the misery of now.  In a way this was Hertzfeldt's way of making a work of art which acknowledges that he has already achieved greatness but that it's hollow if whatever he's working on now doesn't carry the same spark of importance - of necessity - to his being.

WoT is in conversation with so many things it may become the academic envy of budding art students for years to come.  In addition to grappling with the ever annihilating now he interrogate what our future may look like if we all become copies of what we think are our best selves.  Hertzfeldt deals with this not by fragmenting his narrative further from the sometimes violent editing of ISaBD or the absurdity of dorm room favorite RejectedWoT plays like a mindfulness exercise, asking us to be in the moment even if Emily Prime's lust for fun and happiness serves as a distraction to the cautionary tale Emily Clone weaves.

But that's what makes WoT the damnedest thing.  Hertzfeldt crafts it to be so specific to its moment that my mind can't help but drift.  His tendency to present characters and evolving technologies as abstract images and symbols serve to both further my mental wanderlust and ground me in the moment.  I think about what the person behind the box floating toward the sky may be thinking or what conditions drove them to abandon their body for the dark matter of outer space.  It's because Hertzfeldt writes specific explanations and dialogue for what these figures mean that I'm caught up in their emotional tangle even if they don't resemble humans at all.

While Hertzfeldt doesn't rely on as much surreal humor in his images the few he uses in WoT have a morbid appeal.

While Hertzfeldt doesn't rely on as much surreal humor in his images the few he uses in WoT have a morbid appeal.

It's impossible for me to be completely in sync with WoT because Emily Prime happily shifts the colors of the universe when the mood strikes her.  Or my mind wanders over to how increased access to technology won't help the poor be any less poor because of a quick joke about the face of a dead loved one being stretched over a robot.  The image is startling because it's presenting a vision of the underside of a glorious future which could just as easily be representative of the way we offer scraps to the poor now.  Then there's the moment where Emily Clone stutters over her words, trying to figure out how she can emotionally process the death of someone she loves, but because her entire being is rooted in her society's embrace of the past she can't accept what she loved is gone.

Repeating the past in the hopes of maintaining some vision of perfection for the future is fruitless.  Hertzfeldt deals with the success of ISaBD by creating a movie which ventures into science fiction to show how this repetition will falter and do little to stem the entropy which awaits us all.  WoT made me a mess I'm still trying to sort out and with such little time to do it before the next day comes I start to wonder if it's worth resolving.

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Tail - World of TomorrowWorld of Tomorrow (2015)

Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt.

Posted by Andrew

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