Don Hertzfeldt has been ascending as a filmmaker for years – World of Tomorrow felt like the peak of his career, it appears his ascension will continue. World of Tomorrow: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts takes the audience back into Emily Prime’s world, while introducing new versions of her, including Emily 6, who serves the same purpose as a backup hard drive for Emily Prime. Hertzfeldt takes a plunge into new depths of the human spirit, human emotions, and continues the conversation about preserving ourselves for the future.
This film picks up with Emily Prime drawing pictures, and Emily 6 stops in for a surprise visit. Emily Prime is as cute, and innocent as ever. Emily 6 tells Emily Prime her purpose, and reason for existence. Emily Prime is game for the adventure, and off they go. Hertzfeldt finds a beautiful balance of whimsy, joy, and deep melancholy underneath the surface.
There’s much room to discuss our desire to live forever, whether it’s through leaving a mark on this world with something memorable, through the cloning process, or cheap memory banks. Why do we have that feeling? Is the present not good enough for us? A repeated theme is also, “We mustn’t linger. It is easy to get lost in memories.” Some of us dwell on the past – whether it’s a recent past in our lifetime, or in a golden age we long for. We spot these in popular culture every day. Would the works of “It” and “Stranger Things” be as popular if we did not long for something in our childhood? Nostalgia can be a fun thing, it can also set unattainable goals of happiness and expectations from this world. Let’s live in the now!
On a technical aspect, the elephant in the room is the lack of a universal method of preserving our art. Hard drives fail every day. Can artists rely on unreliable hard drives so that tomorrow’s generation can enjoy their work? Who can they trust to backup their works of art? With every new iteration of storage, the films must be converted to that format, and eventually these formats will outlive each artist living today. That is a scary thought! Think about your favorite film, wouldn’t you feel sad if many generations pass in your family, and your family cannot enjoy the same art you held in such high regard? If the purest forms of art hold a mirror to us, we lose a part of ourselves if/when we lose that art.
There is one particular sequence involving the “bog of reality” that was way too real. It’s not the most pleasant place, but simultaneously, Hertzfeldt gives us much hope. Think about some goals and dreams you have not reached, what stopped you? This sequence may terrify some, but Hertzfeldt coats this with delicious sugar that makes this bitter pill easy to swallow. It’s reassuring to realize that you’re not alone in this world, these themes are familiar because they’re so relatable.
Like any great writer, Hertzfeldt is a keen observer of the human spirit. Throughout the film you may recognize emotions that feel so intimate that it feels like he wrote a piece just for you. This film is an emotional rollercoaster! One moment you’ll be laughing at the cute delivery from Winona Mae (Emily Prime and Hertzfeldt’s niece), then you’ll feel the complete desolation of your existence when you consider the vast universe and how small each of us is in the big picture. These emotions often unite together, and left this writer in a constant state of cry-laughing through the runtime.
Hertzfeldt’s technique involved him recording his niece, Winona Mae between the ages of 4-6. He tried a loose script with her, asking her to repeat lines but that was a futile effort. Instead, Hertzfeldt captured quiet moments with his niece on his iPad. He then used all of the clean audio he could find to write the story. This particular technique is daring, and fascinating that he could accomplish such a beautiful story using raw audio footage from his niece. During the Q&A, Don Hertzfeldt whispered “Boyhood” into our ears – hinting that it’s possible that World of Tomorrow could become an episodic telling of Emily Prime’s life as she grows up. WOW. If that’s the direction he wants to take this, we will gladly sign up to witness this delightful series.
Fans of the first World of Tomorrow will find much to love. Any newcomers will be in heaven as they can discover both of these films back to back. World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts demands repeat viewings. Don Hertzfeldt gives us much to think about long after viewing this film. We urge you to support this film whenever it becomes available. Invite your friends and family over to watch the film. This is an absolute, must-see.