PlexiFilm // 2009 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino // December 10th, 2009
"Anything that's touched by man, is transformed by man, is, by its very nature, designed."
Why is a pen shaped the way it is? Why is a spoon, for that matter? Everything in our lives is designed in one way or another; sometimes ergonomically, sometimes aesthetically, and other times hastily. It's a big topic to wrap your head around, but design plays an integral, and often overlooked, role in our daily life. Objectified takes an efficient stab at bringing the subject to our attention.
Director Gary Hustwit arrived on the documentary scene two years ago with Helvetica. It was a movie about fonts.
As the second installment in a proposed trilogy of design documentaries, Hustwit takes a look at the design of objects. He speaks with leading industrial designers, artists, and thinkers, including Jonathan Ive (Apple Computers), Dieter Rams (Braun), and Karim Rashid. Hustwit addresses not only the development and design of manufactured products, but also the philosophy behind why we are attached to objects, as well as their role in global sustainability.
Wall-E spent most of his time on earth collecting and admiring our garbage. His main occupation was crushing it, sure, but whenever he found an object he particularly admired, he would take it back to his home. We're all sort of like Wall-E. We become emotionally attached to a soft couch, a clever mug, or an old camera. Not often do we stop to ask ourselves why. Objectified attempts to not only address why, but also open our eyes to the fact that every manufactured object, from sidewalks to iPods, is designed.
It's an eye-opening film for folks not in the design world; just as Helvetica introduced people to the idea that fonts influence how we feel and communicate. For a graphic designer like myself, Hustwit's film offers a new, artistic appreciation for everyday objects and a peak into the thought process of some of the world's leading industrial designers. His naturalistic directorial style is simple and efficient, like a Braun clock radio.
Objectified follows a natural progression, for the most part, moving from discussions on simple objects and design theory to thoughts on environmentalism and consumerism. Hustwit presents a variety of theories and perspectives from some pretty colorful characters, but allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.
If anything, the film feels far too brief for the task at hand. The discussion of industrial design, and man's attachment to objects, is the stuff of a mini-series. Perhaps I'd be the only one watching, but I got the sense that Objectified was glossing over too much to move on to the next subject. For one, much of the design discussed focuses on modern and post-modern design philosophy, but little is mentioned of anything prior. This may be asking a bit much, as the documentary is simply trying to present these ideas in broad terms for a broad audience; it's understandable.
The film's presented in a well-designed (of course) package from Plexifilm. The visuals are bright and sharp, and Luke Geissbuhler's cinematography looks fantastic. The audio, including an airy score by El Ten Eleven, is equally impressive, coming in both stereo and surround sound. All of this is introduced by a wonderfully minimalist DVD menu.
The disc also includes about 60 minutes of extra interview footage. It's the only supplement on the disc (save for an essay by Hustwit), but it's certainly a doozy. The footage is broken down by interviewee, or you can watch them all at once. Subjects like the history of industrial design are briefly mentioned, but you also get to hear more personal stories from designers about specific projects. For those who thought the film's 75-minute runtime was a little too brief, there's plenty here to dive into.
I'd like to go as far as to say that everyone would benefit from seeing Objectified, since its subject matter and approach is wholly accessible. The film's examination of our designed world is fascinating. Unfortunately, I didn't find the film as focused as its typefaced predecessor; the film tries to touch briefly on every aspect of modern industrial design, but in the process it just scratches the surface. But hey, that scratch builds character.
Not guilty, by design.
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site