I was not aware of or knowledgeable about the phenomenon of the Toynbee Tiles before sitting down with Jon Foy's fascinating documentary "Resurrect Dead." Starting in the eighties, strange tiled messages started appearing on city streets in Philadelphia as well as other major American hubs and even into several South American countries. The message contained on the tiles apparently refers to historian Arnold Toynbee and to Stanley Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey." It seems to reference a metaphysical assertion that some form of resurrection is possible, the exact nature of which is open to interpretation.
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.