Don Hertzfeldt’s new film and the esoteric struggles of stick figures.
Don Hertzfeldt has a history of creating short films that trick you into caring deeply for doomed, ludicrous figures. Nothing embodies this better than Rejected, an exploration of the dark fate shared by all bad ideas. If you can get beyond the resemblance to Jhonen Vasquez’s Bad Art Collection enough to empathize, the short ends with the surprise that you could be that scared for a boy whose spoon is too big, a banana, some stick figures in hats, etc. You bear with it and it tricks you and grabs you and, like the kids say, the feels.
World of Tomorrow is bolder than what has come before. It is a face to face confrontation with the fear that Rejected or It’s Such A Beautiful Day never names. Hertzfeldt is in touch with the dark side inside all of us, it takes guts for someone messed up to dole out life advice. Critics are going crazy because there’s more things going on in this short film than a summer at the multiplex. Not just the dystopian setting, though. This isn’t (just) social commentary. This movie tells you what you should be doing.
The world of tomorrow is a horror movie that comes from preservation devoid of morals. Hertzfeldt explores the potential cost of immortality. We will stop at nothing to allow technology’s advance towards immortality. No one wants to die, ever. But at the same time, we’re afraid to confront mortality. We’re all on the run from death, but no one wants to talk about it. Here’s why that won’t work:
Mortality counts and immortality is bullshit. Those who live forever get infinite chances to get things right, rendering the result meaningless. Mortality makes it matter. Your trials and failures all count because this is all the time you’ve got. You don’t have forever to get it right. You have right now, and that’s it.
No time to waste (on bad art).
Emily Prime is brought through time so that a third generation Emily clone can recover a lost memory. That memory, the Emily clone’s favorite memory of her lost love, the memories that the Emily clone has on display in her art gallery, all of them illustrate where the antithesis of all the doom and gloom lies. The moments outside of time, outside of the narrative of our life, are the big ones. Not what we talk about or think about when you look back on your life, but the small moments when you are full to overflowing, that feeling of being full of life. Which is more valuable, the satisfaction of good memories or the experience of being happy in the moment? The source of that latter happiness can come just as easily from plant applause as it does building robots that outlast society. Hertzfeldt is a master of playing with this, with us.
He slaps you around from moment to moment, leaving you awake and alive at the film’s conclusion.
You can watch the trailer below and follow it through to the full short, or just head over to bitterfilms.com.