Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts was everything I expected and more, which is to say, it was like nothing I could have ever expected at all. The mind of Don Hertzfeldt is a strange and wondrous, completely unknowable place, and there is no way for anyone to know what to expect from any of his films.
The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts was equal parts confusing and beautiful, sad and hilarious. This film is the very definition of art. You could watch it with ten different people and every single one of them could walk away from it feeling completely different. It is so strange and surreal, and it is in no way an average animated short film. The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts is just something that need to be experienced for you to even begin to know what I’m talking about.
This film is an exploration of several science fiction ideas, including time travel and clones, as well as a look at the nature of memory, how the mind works, and what it means to be human. All told from the perspective of a five-year-old and a copy of her clone from the far future. For a casual viewer, it will probably be a bit confusing, even more so than the first World of Tomorrow film, which was probably still confusing for a lot of people, but perhaps slightly more straightforward with its plot.
With this one I had to really focus on what was going on so I wouldn’t get lost, and I’m not sure I even caught everything the first time. It is a film that you’re going to want to watch several times to take in everything that’s going on. Unless you were just completely confused and/or disturbed, in which case you may not want to revisit it at all. Both scenarios are equally possible with a film as strange as this one.
I absolutely love the idea behind this film, as well as the first. Hertzfeldt uses unscripted dialogue from his four/five-year-old niece, and then reverse engineers a brilliant science fiction story around it. It’s such a unique and brilliant idea, and it just works with everything else in the film so well. The character designs are the simplest part of the film, as they are little more than stick figures, but they work alongside the backgrounds and surreal animations. Additionally, the beautiful classical music and effective atmospheric sound effects give it a completely unique look and feel unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
As confusing as this film can be at times, especially upon the first viewing, I cannot help but love it. The beautifully surreal animation and artwork make this film a memorable, visual treat, while the voice work, especially from Hertzfeldt’s niece, gives this movie such a warm and unique touch and helps to elevate this film from what could have been nothing more than an esoteric exploration of heady philosophical ideas, to something relatable, memorable, beautiful, and touching. The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts is wonderful, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you seen The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts, or its predecessor, World of Tomorrow? What did you think of them?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes