1987 16 mm, color, 30‘
Directed by Peter Fischli, David Weiss
Written by Peter Fischli, David Weiss
Cinematography: Pio Corradi
Editing: Rainer M. Trinkler, Mirjam Krakenberger
Sound: Dieter Lengacher, Willi Kluth
The way things go (Der Lauf der Dinge) is a 1987 short film by Swiss artists Peter Fischli & David Weiss that takes us through a thirty minute Rube Goldberg machine dynamic process driven by gravity. Kinetics, chemical reactions and fire acting upon ordinary objects. The setting is a nondescript empty industrial space where the artists set up a long chain reaction that begins with an ordinary full black plastic garbage bag that is slowly turning due to the twist in the rope from which it is suspended over a tire, as the bag descends, it touches the tire which starts rolling, well, you get the picture. It goes on for thitry uninterrupted minutes of fascinating contraptions including ladders, empty wire spools, wheels, tires, dissolving foam, acid reactions, deflating and inflating balloons, flaming puddles, firecrackers, gunpowder, dissolving containers, homemade rockets, etc.. The movie feels like one continuous take though there are in fact five dissolves in it but at least two are to cut out long chemical reactions. Since the film was shot in 16mm, it is not inconceivable that the other cuts were to reload the camera. You have to watch it to understand.
The movie received renewed press coverage and notoriety when the artists threatened to sue Honda for the auto manufacturers 2003 UK advertisement Cog. The advertisement is a similar linear contraption built with the parts of a Honda Accord, it even uses some of the clever tricks used in The way things go such as weights attached strategically to a tire to make it roll uphill.
I first came across this film purely by happenstance while settling in late one night to watch Alive from off center on PBS, and I was mesmerized. Unfortunately I had not caught the beginning titles and hence did not catch the name of the film. I didn't get to see the film again until it was recently released on DVD. It is safe to say that this is perhaps my hyperkinetic six year old son's favorite film and one of the few things that he will sit to, several times in a row. Also a warning, like or dislike of this film seems to fall along gender boundaries, my wife finds it as tedious as watching grass grow.