The Way Things Go


Rube Goldberg brought to life (and given a chemistry set)

There's no denying it; I found out about The Way Things Go after seeing the superb 2003 Honda of UK ad entitled Cog . Cog depicts a beautifully choreographed chain reaction of Honda Accord parts falling, tripping, blowing, and rolling around the interior of the French chateau, filmed in a single excruciating 60-second take. While checking some of the bulletin boards about Cog , I found a reference to it "being based on" the work of two Swiss Artists. An search and one-click purchase later, I was in possession of The Way Things Go .

The film is a 30-minute chain reaction. Although it's not filmed in a single take (there are five dissolves in the 30 minutes), it still represents a mind-numbing level of rehearsal and filming. It's definitely slower-paced than Cog -- you will occasionally be cheering for the chemical to foam faster -- but it still covers a much wider swath of chemo-mechanical ground.

Endlessly clever variations of how to set up objects to knock each other down are displayed, and in constrast to the highly art-directed Cog , The Way Things Go has a charmingly garage quality. Nothing in it looks manufactured; more the found-at-the-hardware-store (or the dumpster behind it) look. Nevertheless, by the time three minutes have passed, you'll be glued to the screen waiting to see what variation comes next.

The Way Things Go unveils a whole bag of chemical options for chain reactions. Dissolving styrofoam, reacting vinegar and baking soda, and other chemical reactions produce the distinct worry about what happened to their camera afterwards (that worry is reinforced by the frequent use of flaming puddles, trails, and vats of liquid. Ah, fire). All in all, their landlord must have had a retroactive heart attack when he saw what those two artists fellows were doing in their rented warehouse space.

The Way Things Go definitely shows its relationship with the Honda commercial. Several of the specific tricks (how to get tires to roll uphill) and many of the general arrangements are reproduced straight out of this film. While Cog has the continuity of interest to play in TV, The Way Things Go is the piece which will make you want to run out to your garage with some duct tape and a video camera.