Film Portal: World of Tomorrow

Contributor Sean Duffy gives a brief introduction to one of 2015’s most wonderful short films: Don Hertzfeldt’s animated World of Tomorrow.

While visiting my family this past week, I spent an afternoon in the basement of my childhood home browsing through bin after bin of old photos. Many were still packed into their now defunct 1-hour photo paper packages, two pairs of prints, negatives, and all. Some are of the events I remember fondly—Halloweens, birthdays, field trips — but many are from so long ago that I can only remember the stories that my parents told me about them. They feel so familiar yet so faded.

Looking through the scarce collection of my mother’s college scrapbooks, I found myself trying to put together the lives behind the photographs. Who were these people who smiled as my mother snapped the shutter? What were their names? What were they laughing at?

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This kind of nostalgia is what haunts people in World of Tomorrow’s dystopian future, a world where technology has come so far that humans can implant their memories into a clone of themselves in an effort to live forever. This process repeats itself over and over again, with each memory slowly fading every time it is copied and pasted. Therefore, each generation of clones becomes colder and more alone, disconnected from a lifetime they crave to relive but know little about.

More specifically, World of Tomorrow, an animated short film by Don Hertzfeldt, concerns a little girl named Emily who is contacted by her third-generation clone from this future. Clone Emily uses “experimental” time travel, which she admits to being rather spotty and dangerous, to bring Emily to her world, where she shares the story of her tragic life as a clone, from isolation to lost love to an apocalypse just sixty days away.

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Like all of Hertzfeldt’s work, World of Tomorrow is a weird combination of melancholy and charm, ultimately leading to strong and sorrowful catharsis. While running at just seventeen minutes, World of Tomorrow is not only one of the best films of last year, but also one of the most reflective examinations of where we are now and where we are heading as a culture. While a far cry from any sort of you-darn-Millennials-with-your-darn-tight-pants trite, World of Tomorrow is a deeply introspective work that emphasizes, rather than criticizes, with our infatuation with nostalgia, digital escape, and immortality.

Rent or buy the Oscar-nominated short on Vimeo

Author:  Sean Duffy is a writer and filmmaker. He is an award-winning screenwriter and poet, and his films have screened at The College Town Film Festival, Driftless Film Festival, and Chicago Filmmakers. He has one of those website things. This spring he is the Editorial Intern at Facets.


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