The Best Film of 2015 (is a 15 minute animation about the future)
Perhaps it is premature of me to say I’ve seen the very best film of 2015 as early as April, but after three watches of Don Hertzfeldt’s magnum opus World of Tomorrow, I am confident that no film this year (feature-length or short) can top this stunning animation.
I was unfamiliar with Hertzfeldt’s work before World of Tomorrow, having only seen the unshakeably creepy couch gag he produced for The Simpsons (I have since watched the heartbreaking It’s Such A Beautiful Day, another beautifully written and drawn film), but after seeing the $2.99 rental charge on Vimeo, and the overwhelmingly positive reviews it has thus far received, I decided to give it a watch. Even with the aforementioned good reviews, I did not brace myself for such a masterful film.
To give away too much of the film’s story and content would be to spoil the fun, so I’ll just cover the basic synopsis. A little girl, adorably voiced by Hertzfeldt’s four year old niece, is contacted by a clone of herself two hundred years in the future. The clone brings the girl along on a journey through her life to come, and many beautiful, hilarious and touching sights are visited.
For a fifteen minute animation, World of Tomorrow has enough ideas about the future to fill a dozen sci-fi films. An art gallery which shows memories harvested from the dead, elderly people uploading their consciousness into floating cubes (a letter from the little girl’s Grandfather, living in a cube, is the comedy highlight of the film), romance between humans and aliens living on far-away planets; it’s the most creative and individual film I’ve seen since Spike Jonze’s Her, which similarly gave us an interesting spin on the future.
Though World of Tomorrow features plenty of black humour (dead family members ‘brought back to life’ as robots with faces) and full-on laughs (Simon the alien), the overall tone of the film is one of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia. Hertzfeldt himself has said that the film’s key line, “You will feel a deep longing for something you cannot quite remember”, is exactly how he feels about the world, and there is a definite sense of this throughout the film. I was strangely reminded of the final episode of the wonderful Six Feet Under, in which we look into the future of each character and see their fate. Life as a series of moments, and World of Tomorrow has details that made me genuinely sad in a way I barely understand. Drawing pathos from a clone sitting in a chair can’t be easy, yet Don Hertzfeldt needed just ten minutes to make me really care about these characters.
I’m no expert in animation, or what makes an animation particularly good or bad, but I can say that without a doubt World of Tomorrow is one of the most beautiful films in the world. Starting off as rudimentary stick figures, it soon branches out into endless waves of colours, real life textures and backdrops simplistic but perfectly formed shapes. Hertzfeldt’s style of weaving real life footage into his animation initially passed me by until I saw his earlier film It’s Such A Beautiful Day, which uses this technique. There’s something oddly satisfying about seeing this simplistic stick figures interacting with a real life sea or a sunset, giving an adept depth to an already lovely film.
At just $2.99 (or £2 for me in the UK) for a 30-day rental, I honestly cannot recommend World of Tomorrow enough. As someone with an interest in the film industry who wants Vimeo to become a genuine alternative for new filmmakers, I will happily support anyone with a project as interesting as this. For that tiny amount of money, you can expect to see more innovation, originality, big laughs and genuine pathos than, quite possibly, any other film released this year. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, and, most importantly, it’s cheap. Don Hertzfeldt has created a classic in the field of animation, and I urge anybody and everybody to go out and watch World of Tomorrow.
By Harry J. Ford
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