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World of Tomorrow

Entry updated 4 July 2022. Tagged: Film.

US animated short film (2015). Directed by Don Hertzfeldt. Screenplay by Don Hertzfeldt. Cast includes Julia Pott and Winona Mae. 17 minutes. Colour.

Emily (Pott), a third-generation Clone, establishes contact with the four-year-old original Emily Prime (Mae), briefly bringing her to her own era through Time Travel in order to retrieve a treasured Memory. In the process, she inadvertently offers a glimpse of the Far Future, and the life/lives awaiting her in a sinister Utopia. Amid reminiscences of discount time travel, future careers, and the nature of the human in a somewhat brutal society, the elder Emily tries in vain to pass on message to her younger self: "Now is the envy of all the dead." Emily Prime, however, is too young to care, and hence already the embodiment of her descendant's entreaties to seize the day.

Originally conceived as an exercise to teach analogue animator Hertzfeldt how to work in a digital medium, World of Tomorrow packs an incredible amount of world-building into its short running time, loaded with sardonic humour and philosophical bathos. Reflecting the infant worldview of Emily Prime, the characters are little more than stick figures, with much of the drama imparted through voice work and strongly visualized backgrounds. As the older Emily, Pott is dispassionate and emotionless, lending a degree of unwitting humour to her odder memories of disastrous love affairs, and subtle melancholy to her account of the imminent End of the World. As Prime, Mae is a gleeful ingenue, entirely unheeding of the momentous visions on offer and more interested in the pretty colours of her descendant's virtual-reality "outernet". As a search across time for a moment of human contact, Emily's quest recalls Chris Marker's landmark La Jetée, La (1962), but as an encounter between two beings whose worlds are so very different, it echoes Edwin A Abbott's Flatland (1884).

There have been two sequels: The Burden of Other People's Thoughts (2017) and The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020), both likewise written and directed by Hertzfeldt. The first has the same cast, the second pairs Pott with Jack Parrett as the voice of new character David Prime. [JonC]


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