Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Hertzfeldt’s New Trip: ‘World of Tomorrow’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | February 7th, 2015

Going into the latest edition of the Sundance Film Festival, Don Hertzfeldt captured the record for most movies screened in competition by a single filmmaker in the festival’s history.

And with his win for Short Film Grand Jury Prize, “World of Tomorrow” makes Hertzfeldt the only artist to have collected that honor twice. The new movie represents the next logical step in the animator’s increasingly momentous career.

Longtime true believers, stunned by the conclusion of Bill’s journey in “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” whispered to one another nervously, “How could Hertzfeldt possibly create a follow-up to what is, quite simply, one of the greatest animated movies ever made?”

The first hint of things to come arrived in the unexpected and delightful surprises packed into the two-minute couch gag for “Clown in the Dumps,” the 26th season premiere of “The Simpsons.” Hertzfeldt’s fabulous, phantasmagoric commentary on the durability of the show many have dismissed for years contextualizes its place in our culture, simultaneously critiquing the commercial ubiquity of its iconic characters (“Make purchase of the merchandise”) and recognizing the special place they earned in our hearts long ago (“Still love you, Homer”).

Like he will do in “World of Tomorrow,” Hertzfeldt imagines a distant future that is utterly unique yet anchored in the director’s durable observations of the mundane, everyday and quotidian.

With his signature absence of capitalization, Hertzfeldt wrote in his website journal, “there is something strange about the simpsons that i've always wondered about... it's a 26 year old show that seems to always be set in the current day, yet none of the characters ever age and they usually refer to past episodes as past events in their lives. do the children have memories of events from twenty years ago? but while they don't age, they do evolve... they've changed a lot over the years from the way they were first drawn in season 1. so that was where i wanted to start... what happens when the longest running show on tv just never ends?”

Hertzfeldt’s answer to that question, which applies in equal measure to the principal themes explored in “World of Tomorrow,” is assuredly one of the best moments in “Simpsons” history.

One of Hertzfeldt’s greatest strengths as a storyteller lies in his ability to bring apparent opposites into close proximity. Like the Bill trilogy, “World of Tomorrow” soars with happiness one moment and devastates with sadness in the next. The actions and reactions of the characters are by turns profound, uplifting, pathetic and terrifying.

Expanding on several of the visual ideas introduced in his work on the “Clown in the Dumps” couch gag, Hertzfeldt contemplates the biggest questions we can ask of ourselves: What does it mean to be alive? Why are there limits to the time allotted us? How do we love?

Employing digital tools – which he used on “The Simpsons” project – and, for the first time, widescreen, Hertzfeldt introduces us to Emily Prime (Winona Mae, Hertzfeldt’s niece, 4 years old at the time he recorded her), a little girl visited by her own future clone. The grownup Emily is voiced by Julia Pott, the accomplished British animator and illustrator whose arresting hand-drawn shorts “Belly” (2011), and “The Event” (2012) conjure fully realized worlds in which human-animal hybrids dream of love and friendship while dealing with their severed limbs.

The two Emilys – one a child and the other an adult, but in some sense also the same person – struggle to effectively communicate with one another, but eventually manage to forge a connection.

Hertzfeldt continues to develop his capacity for jet-black comedy and brain-scrambling surrealism, and “World of Tomorrow” is crammed with jokes both visual and verbal that stare down grim, grinning death. Faulty, discount time travel machines drop passengers (and at one point Emily Prime, like a Gashlycrumb Tiny) in barren snowscapes.

Lovely shooting stars are composed of the corpses of the once hopeful. Significantly, the filmmaker’s earnest curiosity blocks out all cynicism, and viewers will take comfort in the cheerful, agreeable openness of Emily Prime. Hertzfeldt’s sensibilities radiate from both Emily Prime’s innocence and the cloned Emily’s bleaker, more wistful worldview (“Now is the envy of all the dead”).

The combination, like Hertzfeldt’s finest work, reminds us that life is short but it can also be so very sweet.

“World of Tomorrow” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and will screen at the Fargo Theatre in March during the 2015 Fargo Film Festival.

Recently in:

cshagen@hpr1.comBISMARCK - One day after law enforcement cleared the “Treaty Camp” on October 27, 2016, hundreds of activists defending Native American treaty rights, water rights, and land rights, lined up north of three…

Culture

Millennial

by James Osborne

We all know that labels can lead to some unfair and incorrect conclusions. Is it a coincidence that the generation that everyone loves to hate has been given the most faceless and disaffectionate of all the generational labels?…

Friday, June 23, 6pm till lateSidestreet Grill, 404 4th Ave N, FargoThe best way to spend Friday evening, hipping and hopping in Sidestreet’s parking lot with Kipp G, Circle of Heat, and for the first time in several months, D…

Albert Einstein once said, “The revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the revolution.”This past Sunday marked the 58th year of the Rourke’s Great Midwestern. Though Jim O’Rourke, founder of the…

From Homer’s Odyssey to Buddy Holly: The times they are a-changin’When Robert Zimmerman, born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing, better known as Bob Dylan, won the Nobel Prize for Literature (worth almost a cool $1 million), he…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

On a sultry Thursday night, I sauntered into Luna. Situated on South University next to Bernie’s Beer and Wine, it isn’t exactly a hole in the wall, but it is certainly off the beaten path, and as described by their motto it is…

Pursuing a hobby, much less a career in music is more difficult than just picking up an instrument. Though the passion may be there, the cost of equipment and lessons can be prohibitive.Of course this is something that…

A couple of classic courtroom dramas and a romantic melodrama about theatrical ambition, all adapted from popular novels of their day, are among the recently released Blu-rays by Kino-Lorber. All were made by major filmmakers with…

“I was devastated, scared, and lost. My family’s world changed and our relationships with one another changed too.” said Lonna Whiting.Whiting, co-founder of Brains on the Plains, went on. “In addition to a dramatic shift…

Author, professor, historian and now playwright: Dr. Charlie Barber has taken his love of history to the stage with his new musical, “No Backseat Driver.”Barber’s play is the story of two North Dakota heroes: “Wild Bill”…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Here in the upper midwest we love the summer season for so many different reasons but two of the big reasons I love summer are fresh produce and being outside with a beer in my hand. Sometimes, when I’m spending the day in the…

Wellness

​Natural sleep aids

by Erin Oberlander

As I interact with clients and friends and family alike, one of the issues that comes up commonly is that of sleep. It seems that in our modern world, getting deep, nourishing sleep has become a challenge for some and a complete…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

The North Dakota Department of Health has called “Bullsh*t!” on Meridian Energy’s application to construct its Davis Oil Refinery three miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.In fact, in a strongly-worded letter to…