“World Of Tomorrow” (dir. Don Hertzfeldt, 2015, 17 min. Available for $3.99 via Vimeo)
“World Of Tomorrow,” the brain-busting new short film from the dean of experimental American animation Don Hertzfeldt, debuts today on a wave of good buzz. The 17-minute sci-fi project won Hertzfeldt a record-setting second Grand Jury Prize for Short Film back at Sundance, and crushed the competition in the Animated Short category at SXSW earlier this month. Time Out New York editor and Dissolve contributor David Ehrlich claims it is “probably the best short film [he’s] ever seen.” My interview with Hertzfeldt goes up on Friday, but I’m more than willing to pay “World Of Tomorrow” the biggest compliment I possibly can right now: Believe the hype. Everything you’ve heard is true.
One of the film’s chief joys lies in the unusually gradual nature with which it allows itself to be understood by the viewer; to spoil the plot here would rob the film of a sizable portion of its revelatory power. (Though the story is so dizzyingly high-concept that we probably couldn’t spoil it even if we wanted to.) Suffice it to say that a little girl named Emily meets a visitor who brings her a poignant message from the future. Their conversation drags the pair to the outer reaches of space, through time, wending in and out of reality like a flying fish jumps through water.
Hertzfeldt shoehorns five features’ worth of complex philosophizing into the film’s svelte runtime, all without leaving the impression of being overstuffed or underdeveloped. He grapples with death and life and the things that happen afterward, floating lofty suggestions while simultaneously embracing the mystery of such weight topics. Endlessly rewatchable, visually ravishing, densely theoretical, yet eminently quotable, “World Of Tomorrow” is one of the finest achievements in sci-fi in recent memory.