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Rolling Ball Sculptures - Kinetic Art and The Movie 'Fracture'

'Fracture' Movie 2007 - Anthony Hopkins as Ted Crawford

Desktop model of rolling ball sculpture

Desktop model of rolling ball sculpture

Classic Newton's Cradle - original rolling ball 'exec toy'


Kinetic Art

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

This one is looks great against the rich backdrop - This is what I intend to make myself!

This one is looks great against the rich backdrop - This is what I intend to make myself!

Rube Goldberg cartoon

Rube Goldberg cartoon

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.

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read full fracture movie review at Anthony Hopkins Movies

You can also get the DVD there too!

'Fracture' Movie 2007 Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling

'Fracture' Movie 2007 Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling

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...



Mylindaminka on May 26, 2013:

Короткие стрижки очень милы и невероятно удобны в обычной жизни, они универсальны, многофункциональны и просто созданы для использования различных шпилек, заколок и прочих аксессуаров для волос. К тому же короткая стрижка – это классический способ внешнего омоложения: короткие шаловливые пряди придают всему облику свежий, игривый вид. Разумеется, красоту длинных волос никто не отменял, но за длинными стрижками замечен один непростительный грешок: они часто «уплощают» лицо и утяжеляют взгляд, в то время как короткая стрижка делает черты лица более объёмными, наполненными, чёткими. Наконец, всё зависит от типа лица: некоторым просто категорически противопоказаны длинные волосы, а потому короткая стрижка – беспроигрышный вариант для них.

SlubTydayalap on March 08, 2013:

My spouse and i utilized to receive on top of living nevertheless lately I've truly established a new opposition.

Christopher Price from Vermont, USA on May 01, 2011:

Congratulations Jamie and Mrs.!

So the due date should be in late July or August? Take good care of one another and keep us posted.



Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on May 01, 2011:

Hi Chris, thanks for your interest, we sound about the same age - Rube Goldberg - yeh I suppose they haven't - I always knew it as a nonsense machine. Good on your wife and you, you just have to adapt these days. Sorry so long replying, my wife and I had happy news 5 months ago that we are to be parents again, so situation reversed again! Hi to you both fracture lawyers too but I don't somehow think you are talking about the same Fracture that I am! Susanlang your comment is intelligent and I too would always retain my self control (unless my wife was unfaithfull). Maggs thanks for the link and I'll look up. Thanks to all visitors for kind comments.

Fosamax Fracture Lawyer on April 25, 2011:

I will check the movie later! Looks interesting!

Accutane Lawsuit Settlements on April 14, 2011:

It is cool, and thinking you have a house with marbles rolling everywhere in non-stop. That makes me wonder what is the movie "Fracture".?



Christopher Price from Vermont, USA on October 30, 2010:


I've never seen a movie that Anthony Hopkins was in that I didn't like, but I hadn't heard of this one for some reason. I'll be sure to look it up. Thanks.

As for these kinetic sculptures, I could watch them for hours on end. I wish I had a workshop I could design and build one that would run throughout the house from room to room and back again! That should entertain both our cat and parrot!

This hub is the first mention of Rube Goldberg I have seen in 40 years or so. The kids of this generation doesn't know what they are missing.

BTW, I was Mr. Mom for some time years ago when I was laid off from my job and my wife joined the army to try to save our home from foreclosure. Our circumstances differ but we share the experience.

This was a very enjoyable hub.


Pim on August 17, 2010:

Thanks for the info, precisely what i was looking for after seen the marble shots a dosen of times. Great!

maggs224 from Sunny Spain on July 28, 2010:

I have enjoyed reading this hub and I enjoyed watching the film. In Nottingham's Victoria Centre there is a clock by the kenetic artist Rowland Emett and if you you like this sort of thing I think you would enjoy this youtube video of some of the fantastical machines of Rowland Emett I certainly enjoyed watching it. Emmet was extremely popular in the UK in the early seventies this is a bit before your time I imagine Lol...

susanlang on June 07, 2010:

Hello Jamie. The movie Fracture was indeed about a man who loved his wife and after her secret fling with a police officer; her husband figured out she was cheating on him. As you know, that knowledge was so devastating he snapped and killed her then setting up the cop lover for the crime. I for one believe in the power of self control. Cold blooded murder is never an option and self control is key in real life. This was a good murder movie and Hopkins always does it best with a flare of drama thrown in. Thanks for the information on the Rolling Ball Sculptures, such art is impressive.

Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on May 20, 2010:

Hello JerseyGirl pleased to have amused you! It is a great movie Namvetrich and thank you both for reading and kind comments.

NamVetRich from Springfield Oregon on May 17, 2010:

What a great idea for a Hub, I saw the movie it was great. Thanks for all the info.

JerseyGirl from Jersey Shore on May 16, 2010:

Crazy you are! This is great stuff. I loved this hub in an incredible way.

Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on May 07, 2010:

Hi Agvulpes the machines are fascinating and movie 5/5 in my book. Thanks for visiting.

Peter from Australia on May 07, 2010:

jamie these machines are something else! I must see the movie if not just for the machine. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on April 27, 2010:

Thanks Zsuzsy I would have loved to have seen that - I've never seen one in real life yet - will see if I can find video on that one you mention. Thanks for reading.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on April 26, 2010:

Jamie, there was a gargantuan one (executive toy) on display at the Science North Center in Sudbury Ontario a while back. took up a whole room.

great hub

regards Zsuzsy

Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on April 21, 2010:

Thanks 2Pats for visiting my hubs today! I'm not deterred yet by hubscores! Tantrum I'll go and see that sculpture in the Barbican when next in London-thanks for reading.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 21, 2010:

Great topic for a hub - so original. I doubt if there is another hub on this topic. I am no expert on Hub Scores so I am surprised that this one has a current score of 72. Don't worry - that my change. One of our Hubs yo-yos between about 98 and 80 for no reason that we can detect.

tantrum from Tropic of Capricorn on April 17, 2010:

I've seen one of those , in the Barbican, London ,a couple of years ago. Very interesting hub. Cheers ! :)

Jamiehousehusband (author) from Derbyshire, UK on April 17, 2010:

Thanks for that De Greek and yes Nellieanna I was very obsessive about my marbles then, which has obviously now manifested itself into an adult marble fetish which I was not aware of until I wrote this hub!

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on April 17, 2010:

Jamie - thank you for bringing both the art and the movie to my attention. I remember when the movie came out but I didn't have a chance to see it and then forgot about it, not really knowing the plot. Two favorite actors in it had caught my eye, but that was the end of it.

In my life the closest I've been to involvement with a kinetic type of art was making mobiles in art class - half a century or so ago. Surely the Dallas Art Museum has featured some more current types! I need to visit more!

Was amused by your discussion of your marbles. My big brother (10 years my senior) had an enormous collection which I LOVED to riffle through when he was away. It was conveniently in the bottom drawer of the big armoire that housed his things in the windowed "sleeping porch" we shared. - (I was still sleeping in my youth bed with the high barred sides!) He considered me his servant but rewarded me with part of his dessert when I'd been put to bed without mine for some minor infraction I'd committed. It was a generally compatible arrangement for us both.

However, he was so protective of that marble collenction! The wrath wrought on baby sister if found even so much as touching one of his precious (and hard-won) marbles was too horrid to describe. His arrowhead collection was almost as interesting & involved almost as great repercussions if I wandered into the other bottom drawer where he kept those. But regardless of their actual collector's worth, other than different sizes, if you've seen one Indian arrowhead, you've pretty much seen them all, right?

It was the marbles which were an endless temptation & delight of colors, sizes, internal design,even with scars from all the past games and all having fascinating names & history!

In more quiet moments, he sometimes liked to boast to me about which tough kid he'd won which marble off of & he always enjoyed teaching me about things on which he was an expert. And these were many!

I know he'd have liked the movie "Fracture". He was an ME who also designed airplane equipment. He loved the intricacies of such scientific "toys" as the ball sculptures.

De Greek from UK on April 17, 2010:

Interesting stuff. Will watch the movie, thanks :-)

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