It’s an insanely hard matter to exist. First, of course, we have to be born in the first place, and then, once born make sure our basic needs are met, a harrowing chore in itself at times. The problem with having them met is that it is only briefly satisfying for us. The hunger that’s hard to feed and the rumbling that seems impossible to quiet is the pull of the dread of death and a swallowing ache of loneliness.
This disorienting pain is where Don Hertzfeldt’s films live. Using only stick figures he recreates the world of the heart and the mind in a hauntingly authentic way. Like his previous film It’s Such a Beautiful Day, his newest film, World of Tomorrow plunges headfirst into the darkness, and instead of being suffocated by it, finds the particular source of oxygen that can be found only in our shadowy musings. Sometimes, we may be suffocating our emotions by only exposing them to blinding lights.
“I am proud of my sadness because I know I am alive,” one of the clones of Emily tells an Emily of the future, who is just a child being exposed to mind-bending concepts about life, death, and loneliness (not to mention, cloning and time travel.)
Too often, we try to cast aside our sadness, to wash it off of us. If you think of sadness as a “darkness,” we shine light onto it in order to make it disappear. When the light dies out, however, we are still left with the darkness, and it is natural. It’s part of who we are. It helps us understand things. No matter what we do, life will be rife with pain. It is a series of losses, including the loss of what never was. To ignore our sadness is to ignore an integral part of being.
We tend to think of things in rigid lines, it’s easier that way – Dark is bad, light is good. Uncomfortableness should be cured.
But it’s just all a jumble of colors. It’s a sky of stars that can be connected in countless ways. Hertzfeldt forces us to sit in wonder of our sadness about our losses, about our limited lives, about our untouchable pasts and mysterious selves, about this strange and wonderful state we find ourselves in: being breathing, hungry, anxious creatures who feel we deserve an explanation but still know we will never receive one. It’s sad, yes, but it’s a beautiful existence. It’s a difficult life, but it’s pierced through with wonder.