measure of all things

Like many other east coast people, I was given a bonus day at Sundance due to a winter storm that forced the cancellation of my flight. And this live documentary, The Measure of All Things, was the highlight of my extra day and the best end to the festival that I could have hoped for. This event was much more of a “happening” than it was a screening, and the experience of it was absolutely delectable, not to mention unreproducible. Mixing clips, commentary, lecture and live music, Sam Green and the band weave together the stories of some of the strangest and most beautiful world records of all time.

The Players:

  • Director: Sam Green
  • Cinematographers: Pete Sillen, Andy Black
  • Composer: Mark Dancigers

Synopsis:

The Guinness Book of World Records, which had nothing to do with the creation of this work, features heavily in this performance. Who has the longest name in the world? Where is the quietest place on earth? Who holds the world record for being trapped in an elevator? But more importantly, what do these records signify, and why do we find them so captivating? Sam Green explores these perplexities using a collection of interviews, photos, story-telling and a live score.

The Good:

  • The Music: This element of the performance was stellar. Beautifully written and performed, the music contributed immensely to the overall enjoyment and power of the piece. The timing and precision with which the segments were played matched seamlessly – so much so that from time to time, I forgot there was a live band. Then I would look over and see them playing and it made the whole experience much more exciting and personal.
  • The Oddities: I forgot how riveting it is to learn about world records and world record holders. There’s something so exciting and alienating about it, which I think has something to do with revising one’s understanding of scale by incorporating extremes and contemplating the possibilities beyond one’s own existence. I know that sounds a bit heady, but I couldn’t think of another way to put it. Also, the performance itself wasn’t pretentious at all.
  • Participating: This week, I went to more screenings than I can count. This one was special for so many reasons, not least the interactive nature of the performance. The audience was free to ask questions and interject. It made the experience unique.

The Bad:

  • Unsharable: One audience member at the event asked Sam Green if he planned to film and distribute this, and he said that he didn’t. The reason he chose this format is partly to avoid having it consumed in the wasteful fashion that some media is consumed. I get respect where he’s coming from, but I also wish that I could share this with my friends.

Overall:

I hope that my review will lead you to consider going to performances like these, and this one in particular if you have the chance. The Measure of All Things was engaging, surprising, and fun. If you do get to see it, I don’t know if you’ll have the same experience I did, since it’s a live performance, but my guess is that it’ll definitely be worth while.

Rating: 8.5/10