Breaking and Entering
Directed by: Benjamin Fingerhut
Saturday, November 13th, 7:15 p.m.
Thalian Hall Black Box Theater
When I first read the title, I thought: “Awesome. I’m gonna get to follow crooks as they break into people’s houses!” I settled down onto my couch in a hedonistic stupor, excited by the thought of understanding the mechanics behind some illegal acts. Yet, when the beginning credits ran, what played behind them wasn’t masked men dressed in black but smiling, ordinary people. At least they seemed ordinary from the onset.
Titles began to appear underneath each person—collections of words that aren’t usually put together. “Most apples sliced with a samurai sword in mid air,” “recites 67,000 digits of pi from memory,” “most bull-whip cracks in one minute.” Suddenly, it all clicked: Guinness World Records.
In a film by Chump Change Productions, “Breaking and Entering” takes the audience down the paths and into the minds of a handful of world record holders. We get to see their motives, reasoning, and drive to become number one in some aspect of the world—no matter how obscure. I kept wondering, Who comes up with this stuff? It was extraordinary, the range of trivial, meaningless activities that give these people their claims to fame, such as one character in particular, Ashrita Furman. Furman holds the record for having the most records (101)—and in in such useful skills as fastest mile while pushing an orange with his nose.
But it’s easy to sit atop a high horse. I don’t train for it. My tongue doesn’t bleed and crack, like the man who can tie the most cherry stems in an hour. The most intriguing aspect of the film isn’t that Benjamin Fingerhut showcases an oddball sampling of Guinness winners; Fingerhut delves deeper into their worlds. The people possess something always admirable: passion. Quitting is never an option for them. They set a goal and then stop at nothing to complete it. Some even reach the goal and go back to push the limits again, unsatisfied with what they’ve already accomplished. They need more.
Though interspersed with snippets and insights from a multitude of record breakers, the film mainly follows the quest of three men. We meet George Hood, an ex marine attempting to break the record for longest time cycling while on a stationary bike; Michal Kapral, a Canadian obsessed with defending his record for running the quickest marathon while “joggling” (jogging and juggling); and Texan Steve “The Grape Guy” Spalding, who wants to hold every record for catching grapes with his mouth (longest distance, greatest frequency, etc.). Fingerhut seems to have spent months, possibly even years, compiling the footage on these men. He shows us that almost every aspect of their lives is affected by the choice to chase down that number one spot. His infiltration into the core of their personalities brings intimacy to the subjects that will have audiences rooting out loud for their success by the end.
None of it could have been delivered without the unremarkable camera work. I know ordinarily “unremarkable” might sound negative, but during this film it’s not. The documentary plays by in a casual technique; it almost feels like a home movie at times. Its effect makes the people the driving force behind its success.
Nowhere else are we going to get such unique insight into the Guinness World Records; without the people to form them, it wouldn’t even exist. It’s not something most of us think about when flipping through one of those iconic books. We simply go through, gaping and giggling. After viewing “Breaking and Entering,” a shift in perspective and a newfound admiration for the power of the mind and the clad iron of will surely will keep us all the more fascinated.