My husband is something of a Buckminster Fuller buff. A thinker ahead of his time, Fuller was a future-minded conservationist who put his skills as an architect, engineer, and inventor to use in a wide variety of inventions (some of which still enjoy wide popularity – think the geodesic dome). While my husband certainly knows more about Fuller than most North Americans we were still very excited to watch The World of Buckminster Fuller. Unfortunately, we were deeply disappointed.
Filmmaker Robert Snyder relies strictly upon original footage of Fuller speaking, with many of the clips taken from dated video reels (understandable, as Fuller passed away in 1983). Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for primary sources, but there is really no commentary or transitions at all, everything is left up to Fuller alone, pulling from various lectures, demonstrations of his inventions, philosophical musings etc.
Unfortunately this makes for dry watching that is hard to follow. The audio quality isn’t quite up to snuff, and Fuller seems to be mumbling much of the time – it’s difficult to clearly make out what he’s saying no matter how loud you crank up the volume. Perhaps the man wasn’t a natural orator – all the more reason to include narration in this film. A short, 15-minute film, “Modeling Universe” by Jaime Snyder (Fuller’s grandson), is also included on the DVD which includes clips that are essentially more of the same.
Some of the most interesting portions of the film are found in the black-and-white footage of Fuller’s early inventions, film taken of his original plans, and hearing him speak about the development of his work. It’s the lengthy (and rambling) philosophical musings about Fuller’s theories on the nature of the universe that will almost certainly lose everyone but the most dedicated Fuller devotee.
There is certainly footage worth digging through the 80-minute DVD for, and the fact that the disc isn’t region coded is certainly a bonus for international audiences, but I’d love to see some of this footage incorporated into a more traditional biographical documentary format. This film was originally produced in the ‘70s, and Microcinema has now picked it up the original and transferred it to DVD. I’ve been so delighted with the high quality of other Microcinema documentary films that I was surprised by the letdown The World of Buckminster Fuller delivered.