Published Sep 22, 2011Justin Duerr began noticing embedded plaques laid upon Philadelphia streets in the early '90s. The tiles all read some variation of the following: "TOYNBEE IDEA, IN MOVIE 2001, RESURRECT DEAD, ON PLANET JUPITER." Duerr was transfixed by this cryptic message and the proliferation of the tiles, which seemed to appear randomly in high-traffic urban areas. His transfixion turned into obsession, and Jason Foy's fascinating new documentary, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, is the story of that obsession.
In unravelling his mystery, Duerr soon discovers that several tiles have been laid on the streets of several major American cities in the Eastern U.S., as well as a select few in Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Slowly he begins to decipher the bizarrely worded message, which points to historian and polymath Arnold Toynbee and his ideas about the redistribution of molecules that occurs after a living body dies, which some believe was brought to visual life in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Through early research on the Internet, Duerr hooks up with fellow Toynbee-ites Colin Smith and Steve Weinik, combining forces to document the mystery.
Besides covering the Toynbee mystery, Resurrect Dead is a historical account of the development of the investigation of mysteries on the Internet, and urban myths and legends in general, essentially documenting in 90 minutes the work of over 15 years of scrounging for clues. With information (and misinformation) spreading easier than cream cheese today, it's interesting to reflect on a time when this kind of information gathering was in its infancy.
There's a great moment in the film when the method used to place the tiles in the middle of busy streets is finally revealed, as it's this key cog in the mystery that allows several others to be revealed. As the final pieces come together, the Toynbee tiles form the perfect mystery: impossible to figure out, but one that makes perfect sense at its conclusion.
Resurrect Dead creates a mood with effective visuals and music that makes the story considerably more exciting and suspenseful than if it were simply written down. The less you know about the Toynbee tiles mystery going in the better, as much of the pleasure of Resurrect Dead lies in the unfolding of its unique story. (Films We Like)