Movie Review – World of Tomorrow

World of Tomorrow (2015)
World of Tomorrow – Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2017)
Written & Directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is a revelation in the world of contemporary animation. I thoroughly enjoyed his film It’s Such a Beautiful Day and wasn’t sure what The World of Tomorrow would be like. I was astonished. This is a fantastic animated piece that goes deeper than most live-action films would be willing to do. Profoundly deep thoughts are uttered during both of these short films that should resonate with an audience. Yet, Hertzfeldet was able to balance this with genuinely hilarious moments of comedy.

The plot of the first World of Tomorrow short finds little Emily receiving a phone call on her futuristic home communication device. When she answers, Emily comes face to face with a future clone of herself. The clone Emily goes on to describe what her world is like, how the wealthy create clones as a form of life extension. Clone Emily brings her original child self into the future through a mental space known as the Outer Net. This space allows people to share memories with each other, and the first memory clone Emily shares is about a brainless male clone who was kept in stasis as an art installation. The years the public spent watching “David” stand there unthinkingly blinking had a profound effect on clone Emily.

Clone Emily’s memories share the common theme of being about her process of learning to love. While she’s stationed on the moon, guiding robots across the surface, clone Emily falls in love with a moon rock. Her next paramour is Simon, a shapeshifting alien. Clone Emily eventually opens an art gallery specializing in memory, which is where she meets David, the current descendant of the same genetic line that created the art installation years earlier. Eventually, we learn clone Emily is reaching out because Earth is facing its impending destruction.

In The World of Tomorrow – Episode Two, Emily is once again visited by a future clone of her future clone called Emily-6. Emily-6 came into existence as a memory backup, but the prime Emily clone died in Earth’s destruction, so 6 has no purpose any longer. Emily-6 needs the original’s help in untangling her broken and fragmented memories. While the first film examined the melancholy of Emily’s future, this sequel focuses more on the fractured nature of the world of clones and back-ups. This generation of clones exists only in the shadow of their prime, obsessing over her history, never coming into their own as individuals. It’s Emily-6 who sees herself as an autonomous being deserving of a past.

One of the most moving moments in the series comes near the end of Episode Two when Emily-6 remembers squishing a bug as a child. This shakes her to her core because she suddenly has the realization that this insect has no back up to carry on its life and memories. She states, “All of its experiences are gone forever. We can never know them. If there is a soul, it is equal in all living things.” Humanity is a complex beast doing so much wrong, as we see in the way clones are treated, yet life is such a fragile, rare thing, not treasured enough.

Don Hertzfeldt manages to take crude little stick people and imbuing them with life. The backgrounds of this world stand out as lushly colored and digitally animated dreamscapes. They are intentionally distracting spectacle, but the players in front of them are what captivates us. The silliness of the prime Emily helps cut through the melancholy in this wonderfully told story about who we are and what we might one day become.

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