In the age where YouTube and short-format videos are popular and accessible, it is easy for short films to be distributed. It also needs to be decided what exactly constitutes a short film in itself. There are a myriad of arguments surrounding short films, which has perhaps deterred me from ever reviewing a short film. However, there are two defenses as to why I have decided to do so – the first is that cinema started out as small, short films over one hundred years ago, and have just become longer and more packed as cinematic technology has improved. The second is that short films can be truly audacious and thought-provoking, as a filmmaker has the responsibility to tell a complete story in a short time, which is an important but difficult procedure. So with this introduction to my very first review of a short film, I am happy to announce that World of Tomorrow is one of the best films of the year, despite being around an eighth of the length of every other film in consideration.
I have been a fan of Don Hertzfeldt for a very many years, ever since I saw his short film Rejected nearly ten years ago. Hertzfeldt is a unique filmmaker, because he works in animation, but uses animation in a way differently to other short-form animators – he uses the most simple design to tell the most grandiose stories. Using stick-figured inspired design, he also makes use of beautiful colors and shapes to portray the world he creates in his short films. He is an absolute genius, and his genius is exhibited perfectly in World of Tomorrow, and it seems to be my mission to express what a masterpiece this film is.
I can confidently state the following claim – World of Tomorrow is the best science fiction film of the year. That is not an ironic statement, nor is it an attempt to be subversive and claim a film to be something that it isn’t to receive a response. World of Tomorrow is the best science fiction film of the year, yet it is only 17 minutes long, and is told through stick figures. If that doesn’t prove in itself that Hertzfeldt is an absolute genius, nothing else I can possibly explain will. The film tells the story of a young girl (voiced by Hertzfeldt’s niece) who is visited by a third generation clone of herself from the very distant future who visits the young girl (named Emily, known as Emily Prime to the future clones of herself) and takes her on a mind-bending journey through the future, where Emily Prime is taught the customs of the future, where a strange world known as The Outernet exists to serve two purposes – the first is as a network to connect everyone, and the other is as a place where the old and forgotten go to disappear forever. It is a truly mind-bending concept that Hertzfeldt presents to us here. Emily Prime and her clone go through various stages, exploring the demise of humanity, the destruction of the earth and the future of the world.
Many people will probably find this as nothing more than an amusing little diversion, and won’t see it as the complex and intricate piece of art that Hertzfeldt has created. It is important to remember that a film doesn’t need to be feature-length to contain a compelling story and intense emotions. In fact, World of Tomorrow, in its 17-minute running time, is a more thrilling piece of science fiction than most big-budget blockbusters. Beneath the simplistic design and novelty value of this film lies a very powerful story, and if you become immersed in the story like I did, it packs a real emotional punch, and you’ll find yourself reeling from the euphoric brilliance of this film. Nothing this year comes close to the creative uniqueness of this film, and nothing should, because it is a film unlike any other you’ll likely see. Hertzfeldt created something truly transcendent here, and as soon as more people realize that Don Hertzfeldt is a revolutionary force of cinema, the sooner we can acknowledge that cinema is the greatest art form.
It might seem excessive that I am so enthusiastic about a short film. However, World of Tomorrow is unlike any short film you’ll ever see. It is a technological marvel, along with a narrative masterpiece, and is a truly unique science fiction film. It shows Hertzfeldt’s ability to ensure that his films always follow the “less is more” principle, and his simplicity is strikingly beautiful. This could very well be the first time a science fiction film makes it onto my list of the best of the year, but I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the thought. If a film is brilliant, it is brilliant regardless of length.
World of Tomorrow has such amazing heart and soul, and is truly a masterpiece of animated cinema, and I urge everyone to watch it. It isn’t very long, and it is truly thought-provoking and will make you reconsider your own existence. It is the kind of film that will keep you up at night, because if there is one aspect of Hertzfeldt’s filmmaking that sets him apart from most, it is his penchant for creating hauntingly beautiful images and ideas that will permeate into your consciousness and make you ponder everything you thought you understood. It is a film that will definitely leave a mark on you, in a very positive way. I urge everyone to seek it out – it is a very short film that will lead to a great change in perception, and you will feel like you are a more conscious and complex person after watching World of Tomorrow.
If you are unable to watch World of Tomorrow, perhaps seek out some of Hertzfeldt’s other work. A personal favorite of mine is Rejected, a collection of amusing shorts that were rejected from an educational channel that commissioned Hertzfeldt to create short films for them. That too is a masterpiece that should be sought out rabidly.