Don Hertzfeldt and the Genius of World of Tomorrow

By Diego Caceres, Staff Writer

Don Hertzfeldt is one of the greatest filmmakers of the century. No other director can create emotionally moving, intensely creative, and visually stunning short films like Hertzfeldt. His work, from It’s Such a Beautiful Day to The Meaning of Life, is so imaginative that it becomes indescribable. Everything he makes feels new, exciting, and filled with life (using stick figures!). After watching the World of Tomorrow series, I can safely say Hertzfeldt is a genius.


With the recent release of World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime on Vimeo, I decided to rewatch the other two episodes and relive the magic that drew me into Hertzfeldt’s genius. He created a complex narrative that does not rely on grand blockbuster ideas to function, only the unscripted audio of his four-year-old niece. The series tackles humor and existentialism: two drastically different ideas that are hard to get right, but he does so flawlessly.


The first episode is all about Emily, a young girl who can barely finish her sentences and is contacted by her future clone, searching for a lost memory. We follow them into the distant future, something Emily can hardly comprehend, but her clone is adamant about explaining as they tour the futuristic Earth. It covers ideas like time travel, the extinction of humanity, futuristic social structures, and existential art museums. One of my favorite quotes from the first episode is when Emily’s clone says she fell in love with another clone. “I loved him as though we were originals.” In 17 minutes, Hertzfeldt manages to crack my little heart while simultaneously making my face hurt from smiling so much. The sequel’s announcement was unexpected considering how perfect the first episode is, but I gladly welcomed it.


The second episode further delves into the expansive universe of the future without losing the charm from the original. We follow Emily and another clone from the future as they explore each other’s subconsciousness. The movie delivers impressive visuals and many complex ideas that could leave you imagining for days– one idea being the cloning of humans to expand their lifespan. One of my favorite quotes is when Emily five, a clone whose sole purpose is to expand Emily Prime’s lifespan, is talking about her lonely life with her sister. “We had images of gardens in our heads, but had never seen one for ourselves and pretended the planet’s brown mineral cubes were flowers and the oil pools sparkling fountains.” Hertzfeldt perfectly represents the childlike wonder mixed with an existential dread that surrounds the entire series. It is truly unique.


I wanted to write this article in honor of the newest episode. Hertzfeldt’s work deserves all the love it can get (he is a genius after all). I plan to watch it as soon as possible and encourage those interested in doing the same.