Rolling Ball Sculptures - Kinetic Art and The Movie 'Fracture'
'Fracture' Movie 2007 - Anthony Hopkins as Ted Crawford
Classic Newton's Cradle - original rolling ball 'exec toy'
My first knowledge of a rolling ball sculpture was 3 years ago when I took my wife to see the movie ‘Fracture’, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Apart from thoroughly enjoying the film, a clever modern suspense thriller, with a twisting and turning plot, the ‘contraption’ – as we called it, not then knowing what it was, became a talking point.
The rolling ball sculpture, approx 6ft high by 6ft
wide was all shiny metallic tracks and carved wooden wheels, where small glass
balls skitter and roll in an elaborately choreographed dance - a beautiful
piece of precision machinery and impressive kinetic art, elegantly displayed in
the interior- designed L.A.
mansion in the movie ‘Fracture’. The
lead character Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) designed and built these art
installations as a hobby, being an aeronautical engineer by profession. I loved the sound this machine made, so
comforting, reminded me somewhat of playing pinball machines in my mis spent youth.
Rolling Ball Sculpture
I researched the movie and rolling ball machines and learned kinetic art is a term for sculptures that have movement. The machines are likened to ‘nonsense machines’ originally depicted by the famous cartoonist and engineer Rube Goldberg, and now known as Rube Goldberg machines – ‘complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways’.
The Rube Goldberg type machines, the elaborate full scale version and the desktop model, which are seen in wealthy Ted Crawford’s (Anthony Hopkins) home and office, play a clever key part in the movie ‘Fracture', reminding you perpetually of the man’s precise, meticulous character and synchronizing with the twisting, turning plot itself. The devices are located in the two central places of his life - his lounge and his private office.
Why the writer of 'Fracture' hit upon the idea of having a rolling ball machine in the movie
As a boy I loved my marbles collection, sleek, smooth ball bearings, heavy in weight and a good clinking sound when they collided. Rough to the touch ‘blood alleys’ and swirling coloured glass ones – even one with a blue eye in it! I had all my marbles then (LOL) in a velvet bag, today I have lost track of them...
Writer Glen Gers was also inspired by marbles - rolling ones in a marble maze, exiting in unexpected places.
The writer of 'Fracture' saw these 'executive toys', such as the giant rolling ball art as reflections of Ted Crawford's persona and his physche in the movie, his attention to detail which was paramount in the film.
It was therefore a movie makers impressive prop, which could not be achieved with computer generated images, it required design skill and ingenious flair to build this art of monsterous proportions, something quite rare to achieve these days.
Anthony Hopkins The Rolling Ball Sculpture in 'Fracture' movie 2007
The 'Magnus Opus' Rolling Ball Sculpture in 'Fracture'
The movie production and design team started
their search to commission the construction of the rolling ball structure which
surprisingly was not difficult – they had no idea there were actually millions
of people out there fascinated by the whole subject. Eventually Mark Bischof was selected, a Dutchman
with a background in music, who after years of experimentation in working wood
and developing a varied range of art objects, found his preference in creating
machines that work solely on the basis of gravitation and must be set in motion
by hand. In constructing these kinetic
works of art it is important that the method of construction is visible, as following
in detail what’s happening is part of the attraction and the aesthetics with
the functionality combine to produce fantasy art, hence why Bischof and other such skilled artists produce kinetic sculpture 'tailor made' to a clients' particular brief or fantasy. Bischof was meticulous in his work, having produced
an intricate high quality rolling ball machine of tremendous scale and weight
which was complex on one hand yet so delightfully simple in other ways. There was however, the problem of distance, with the artist in Europe and the production team in the U.S.
The rolling ball machine has its own kind of hypnotic rhythm; it lulls
you into a meditative state, which is probably why the ceiling mounted one shown below was originally mounted on the ceiling of a dental surgery - imagine lying back, listening to the music and getting mesmerised by that, especially if you're under gas for your treatment!
Cool Rolling Ball Kinetic Art
The Construction of The Machine
Bischof and the production team drew up a plan whereby Bischof would design and consult, liaising with the special effects coordinator, Larz Anderson, enabling his team to build a similar rolling ball installation, 8ft by 8ft and also a “stunt double” version. Aesthetically the kinetic art was designed to fit in with Ted Crawford’s designer house and to capture the imagination of the viewer (which it certainly did mine!). It was powered by two 12-volt electrical motors operated via remote control. The team apparently thoroughly enjoyed this unique construction project, each member contributing a small piece in a giant puzzle. Once assembled the machine weighed around 250 pounds, so it was not easy to move on set.
Rolling Ball Sculpture
Kinetic Art or Rolling Ball Sculptures are for everyone, timeless art in your home, funky gadgets and even educational kids toys, complex or simple, that's their intrigue.
Unfortunately much as I would love to have one installed on the ceiling of my lounge, enjoy it lying back in my Stressless chair listening to music through my home cinema, that is not likely to happen! I'll keep dreaming though...