I can chart the genesis of my cinephilia from the transitional period between high school and college – like so many, I sought refuge in cinema’s escapist qualities. I consumed film upon film, relishing in each new discovery, quickly sucked into the empathy vacuum that is cinema. The anxieties of living on my own and the strains of collegiate life were a distance away from the plights of the Italian Neorealists. Clouds seemed to part on the days where I discovered Charlie Chaplin. And concerns melted away as I fixated on the aggressive formalism of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. I catapulted myself into the boundless depths of cinema and found pieces of myself, of my experiences, as shards of mirrored fragments throughout all the films I hold dear.
The infinite roads and detours of cinema led me to Don Hertzfeldt. I’m not exactly sure what prompted my viewing of Don Hertzfeldt’s Everything Will Be Ok. I wish I could remember, but I can only surmise it was a recommendation from an online acquaintance who, over what may be a decade, has become a friend and supporter of this website.
Everything Will Be Ok was a life-changing film. The particle shards were no longer fragments, but rather a fully formed mirror pointed directly at me. Hertzfeldt’s 16-minute film about a stick figure named Bill provoked everything out of me – the empathy vacuum absorbing me into Hertzfeldt’s worldview. The film appropriately opens with Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau”, a swirling symphonic piece that begins with two careening flutes, before giving way to its more boisterous clarinets and harmonies. The piece, part of a six-part poem entitled "Má Vlast" (My Country), is meant to conjure the image of two rivers converging, with the wonders and experiences that involve the streams captured in an instant, vaporizing into a steam of memories. The Moldau is an integral part of Everything Will Be Ok, where the film’s contemplations on human behavior and memory-making require an audience member to contribute their own stream of consciousness. As a viewer, what elevates this film, or any film for that matter, is our capacity to inform the images with our experiences. Some films strike a chord at the right moment, and with Everything Will Be Ok, my stream of experiences converged with that of the film, fluidly flowing and uniting.
I’ve spent the better part of the eight or so years following my viewing of Everything Will Be Ok doing what everyone else is doing: living. Or at least, running through the gamut of events that culminate in defining a person’s life: graduating, moving, working, writing, watching films, and coping. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking: thinking about making my own film and piecing together pieces of writing into something bigger. The grand allure of adulthood loses its shiny veneer quickly when the weight of responsibility comes crashing down – now 26, it’s only been a short time since I can say that the juggling act has become tolerable. What was once a teenager is now an adult, and with 26 will soon come 27.
Since Everything Will Be Ok, I have championed Hertzfeldt’s work, from 2012’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day to humorous and light excursions like Billy’s Balloon and Wisdom Teeth. Seeing him getting his due following rave reviews coming out of the Sundance Film Festival, it was something of a moral victory to see a man who has shaped my worldview finally garnering some attention - as a film critic, my singular aim has been to highlight the films and filmmakers that I think are important. Don Hertzfeldt is an important filmmaker and his new film, World of Tomorrow, is his best yet.
World of Tomorrow floats, both as a piece of filmmaking and as a contemplative study on life and death. The film’s premise involves a young girl named Emily and her encounter with a future self, where the two will transcend the expanses of time and space to uncover pieces about themselves. This simple synopsis does the film no justice, as much of the picture’s intensity is derived from the film’s abstract digital animation and Hertzfeldt’s astounding grasp of human behavior – his simple stick figures say more about life and living within the confines of 17 minutes than most even suggest over the course of a feature. Its weightlessness and wispy contemplations may allow the film to move with swift playfulness, but this is a device that’s utilized to bypass petty detail – it does not conceal the fact that World of Tomorrow mounts an unexpected assault on the senses that cuts straight to the bone. As the audience follows Emily and her future self, where the concept of tense and past, present, and future lose meaning, Hertzfeldt’a major pronouncement is to live, feel, and create. Humanity is contingent on it.
And so I sit in my local coffee shop on a Sunday morning. I overlook everyone’s interactions. The relationships here are largely like my own now: one shared with technology. This isn’t new. I mean, I can’t recall the last time I haven’t had the immediate urge to check my email or glance at my phone to check Instagram and Facebook. A character in World of Tomorrow humorously notes her pathetic obsession with inanimate objects, with the irony not lost on me about my own relationship with technology. I mentioned that Everything Will Be Ok changed my life and arguably World of Tomorrow has done the same. It’s made me want to disconnect from a world of trivial detail and embrace something more vital. So excuse drops in my productivity from this site as I pursue other avenues – there comes a point where glancing at the blinking cursor of a Microsoft Word document is no longer conducive to productivity. A reinvention is a pen and paper away.