Tuesday, March 31, 2015

World of Tomorrow (short): The Malaise of the Clones

In Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, generations of human cloning leads to a steep decline in creativity and problem solving skills. Side effects for late generation clones also includes a potential romantic attraction to inanimate objects, like rocks and fuel pumps in Don Hertzfeldt’s latest short film. After winning the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Hertzfeldt’s thought-provoking World of Tomorrow (trailer here), launches today on Vimeo VOD.

Emily is playful, good-natured kid. The grown clone of her clone of her clone is not. She is a rather dreary, socially awkward killjoy. What went wrong? Clearly, the deterioration process took its toll. Unfortunately, it seems this has happened on a planetary scale. Humanity is pretty much done for—and it is hard to mourn for such drab and morose lot. Time-travelling Cloned Emily will explain it all to Emily Prime, but the girl is too young and healthy to get most of what she says. Instead, she appreciates the interstellar spectacle of their journey.

World is a smart and ironic excursion into the sort of eon-spanning science fiction H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon created and largely still dominate. Strangely enough, it also makes a fitting thematic companion to Hertzfeldt’s special Simpson’s intro, the longest and most conceptual couch gag in the show’s history. It is very funny at times, but it also poses some rather pointed questions about cloning and the nature of what it means to be human.

Despite their simplicity, Hertzfeldt’s figures are rather expressive, particularly the endearing Emily Prime, while his cosmic backgrounds are truly cinematic. Quite substantial as a seventeen minute short, World really combines distinctive animation with challenging science fiction filmmaking. Hopefully, Hertzfeldt will eventually integrate it into a larger feature as he did with It’s Such a Beautiful Day, because there should be considerably more material for him to explore in this apocalyptic cloned far future. Regardless, World of Tomorrow is recommended for all animation and science fiction fans when it releases today exclusively on Vimeo.