Netflix and Chill — 420 Edition: Don Hertzfeldt’s “World of Tomorrow”

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“World of Tomorrow” (2015) is an animated science fiction short film written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt. It’s a melancholy movie, but a beautiful one – and only 16 minutes long, so why not give it a shot? It’s up for best short at the Oscars. The story follows a sweet stick-figure toddler named Emily, who receives a phone call from her future self. This “self” is actually a clone (also a stick-figure), calling from 227 years ahead; and she’s the third copy who has been made from Emily, possessing all of the little girl’s memories in a copy-pasted brain.

The rest consists of tender dialogue between the two Emilys, as they wander through the vast “outernet,” a virtual reality where everyone in the future lives and communicates. It’s comprised of geometric shapes and lines, layers that intersect, overlap and pulsate with colors. Clone Emily tells original Emily about the dystopian future in a flat monotone; she doesn’t seem human, but she definitely has a consciousness and expresses feelings of intermittent sadness and hope. The film asks: If we generate clones or “backups” of ourselves, are they individual entities with their own cognizance or merely continuations of us? In this sci-fi future, the apocalypse is imminent, so humans clone themselves and then upload their memories into the clones, in desperate bids to live forever. But maybe it’s cruel to craft beings who have a diminished understanding of their purpose on Earth.

“World of Tomorrow” features complex philosophizing – but it’s also funny, especially the interaction between little Emily, who doesn’t understand a thing, and clone Emily, who is attempting to impart serious information to her. One girl is carefree, the other filled with all the pain and knowledge of the ages. Much of the humor is black; clone Emily explains how people who can’t clone themselves allow their dead faces to be stretched over animatronic machines, so they can still be part of their loved ones’ lives. This flick is good for a cerebral high, preferably from a sativa strain. It’s filled with questions about mortality and life in the digital age; and these are things you should be pondering, preferably while stoned, because what better time is there to confront broad questions about the universe?

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold DGO staff writer

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