Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles [Import]
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For three decades hundreds of cryptic tiled messages have been appearing on major city streets across the U.S. and South America. Finding an answer to this long-standing urban mystery has been Justin Duerr's obsession. For years he has been collecting clues and piecing together key events, ultimately leading him to a revelation more surreal and enigmatic than he could have ever imagined.
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The trio has been documenting and dissecting the tiles for years and Foy's film serves as both a springboard to finding the tiles' creator and a concise collective of the entire Toynbee Tile universe for hardcore enthusiasts and novices alike. Once Duerr & Co. bring the viewer up to date with the basics of the tiles and their various theories of the tiles' meaning, the amateur detectives follow up on the most significant leads to entertaining results. Efforts to contact a neighborhood recluse with the help of some local eccentrics gets them somewhere, as do various archival newspaper clippings, a short wave radio convention, internet communications, and a one act David Mamet play that hits on multiple hot spots of tile lore, despite the playwright's prior insistence that he invented the dialogue.
Foy presents the quest and its relevant information in classic "whodunit" style. The trio are knowledgeable of their subject yet patient and caring in relaying their thoughts and findings. The Toynbee Tiles are clearly important to them and their enthusiasm in cracking the case is a joy to witness. With each new nugget and clue, the mystery inches closer to being solved, though the tension and excitement of the unknown remains elevated. Few narrative films are this engaging and well-made, and for a first-time filmmaker (who financed the work by cleaning houses and taught himself film scoring to create a hauntingly good soundtrack) covering such an obscure subject, Foy has made a modern classic.
The principle tiles read, although many also contain peripheral messages or rants:
In Kubrick's 2001
On Planet Jupiter
"Resurrect Dead" follows one man's obsession about finding out the truth behind the Toynbee Tiles. Justin Duerr, along with two other interested parties, made it a mission to discover the identity of the original tiler. Their exploits and investigations are covered extensively within the documentary. It is indeed a fascinating topic, and the film lays out the methodology they used to reach their final conclusions. It is an entertaining journey with some unexpected stops (a shortwave radio convention) and intriguing clues (a David Mamet play). The film covers the investigation well, and I was along for the big reveal.
But while I liked the movie (and I did), I'm not sure what it all really amounts to. The mystery is certainly more appealing than its solution. Once the primary suspect is revealed, we never get any closer. Duerr simply proposes numerous theories and suppositions about his motives. The mystery remains largely unsolved. I don't feel like I know the full story, and maybe that will never be possible. In truth, I think the whole tile campaign and the philosophy behind it are really just symptoms of a psychotic break. But still, the movie was a success at some fundamental level as I genuinely still want to learn more. Great story, good movie, but incomplete solution. But I suppose we may never get closer to the truth than this. KGHarris, 1/12.