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The Way Things Go

Sean Jack is a senior at UVM studying English and Film. He works in the Media Resources Department of the Bailey Howe Library. We asked him to tell us about one of his favorite films from the library’s collection. Here’s what he had to say:

“Growing up, The Way Things Go was my favorite movie. I realize that this is an odd statement –what child would pick the filming of an art installation as their favorite movie? – but as a child this film captivated me like no other. I’ve always been fascinated by Rube Goldberg machines, purposefully over-complicated devices that perform a simple task through a series of chain reactions. Contraptions like this have been featured in many films, for example, the meal-making machines found in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Back to the Future, but what makes The Way Things Go special is the sheer ingenuity and enormity of the endeavor filmed in the name of art.

“Constructed in an abandoned warehouse, the device, an assemblage of household items like balloons, tires, tea kettles, and ladders, spans an incredible 100 feet of cause and effect style reactions, as one item pushes, spins, or catapults another into action. Peter Fischi and David Weiss, the creators of both the film and the contraption, are known as “the merry pranksters of contemporary art” (New York Times), an apt moniker considering the jovial, childlike wonderment which I feel the film espouses.

The Way Things Go is very much about motion, and viewing the film is akin to watching a well executed dance. Each stage of the contraption has its own specific motion, however the one thing each element has in common is that every movement is delicately deliberate. Whether it’s the topsy-turvy roll of a barrel as it saunters its way up a ramp or the haunting swing of a pendulum caught aflame, each is equal parts wonderful and beautiful.”

 

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