Resurrect Dead

| January 30, 2012

From Kansas City to Boston to Washington D.C., and even in some parts of South America, there are tiles embedded in the middle of the street which carry the message: Toynbee idea in Kubrick’s 2001. Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter. Some of the tiles vary on the message; changing a word or two, but the basic idea remains the same. Hundreds of these tiles can be found across the Americas; all saying basically the same thing, and many carrying more unique messages around their borders about government conspiracies. Much of it sounds like the ravings of a paranoid lunatic, but as Justin Duerr (a man who has spent his entire adult life obsessed with discovering the meaning of the “Toynbee Tiles” and finding their creator) dives into the mystery in this documentary, the results are utterly fascinating to watch. From obscure radio transmissions in the early 1980s to hijacked television signals to the work of David Mamet (Playwright/Screenwriter/Director Glengarry GlenRoss), every turn of this mystery is sure to grab your attention and never let go. Possibly to the point where you too will be dying to solve the mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.
The writing on the tiles may seem like gibberish at first, but as Justin Duerr and his small group of like-minded friends quickly reveal, the tiles refer to Historian Arnold Toynbee, who believed that science would one day allow us to resurrect all of the people who had ever died on planet earth and let them inhabit Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. An idea that the mysterious Toynbee Tiler believes is alive and well in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The whole thing may sound very culty, but don’t let the film’s offbeat premise scare you off. Duerr’s obsession with the tiles begins simply with the art of the tiles themselves and the process the tiler used to literally embed the tiles in the middle of the street. As he digs into the tiles meaning, he comes to understand the tiler’s philosophy about Arnold Toynbee, and while it’s never clear if Duerr comes to believe it’s true, the level of respect he develops for him is unmistakable. So, the discussion here never gets too far beyond philosophical and hypothetical; never religious.
Like any good mystery, here we have a list of suspects. Each more interesting and compelling than the last. A recluse in Philadelphia (where most of the Toynbee Tiles can be found), a railroad worker whose railroad only stretches as far as the Toynbee Tiles can be found (excepting South America), and even writer/director David Mamet, who wrote a one act play entitled “4 a.m.” about a call-in radio show where a caller phones in talking about Toynbee and resurrecting the dead to live on Jupiter. Mamet has claimed in interviews that he invented all of these elements from his imagination, but the details he writes and the way he phrases these things leave Justin Duerr and others skeptical as to how involved Mamet might be.
Every twist and turn is sure to leave the audience wanting more. The story is so crazy that it has to be true. No one could make this up, and had it been written as a fictional movie, it would be too unbelievable and surreal to be taken seriously. Fortunately, director Jon Foy is able to perfectly execute this film in a way that keeps things fast paced and incredibly interesting from start to finished.
Special features on the DVD include director commentary, a photo gallery of the various Toynbee Tiles, as well as some deleted scenes.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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