One of the most important American writers of the 20th century, Kurt Vonnegut’s novels were full of intelligence and dry humour. Perhaps his most famous work, the semi-autobiographical novel Slaughterhouse-Five, was both a horrifying account of the firebombing of Dresden and a dark time travel comedy.
Such books as Cat’s Cradle, Player Piano and Breakfast Of Champions offered up amusing and often worryingly accurate portraits of human nature at its lowest, where lives are ruined or existences snuffed out through naivety or plain madness. In short, Vonnegut was one of the sharpest sci-fi writers of all time.
In 1982, filmmaker Robert Weide wrote to Vonnegut in the hope that the author would let him make a documentary about his life. To Weide’s surprise, Vonnegut agreed. Between 1988 and 2007, Weide met with Vonnegut many times, interviewing him about his life and work on camera and revisiting some of the places the author lived and grew up. Gradually, the pair became friends.
Over the intervening years, Weide would himself go on to enjoy considerable success: he was producer and director on the hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm, and received acclaim for Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012).
After Vonnegut’s sad death in 2007, Weide continued to work on his film, but it remained in a curious state of limbo; Weide had long been concerned that his growing friendship with Vonnegut would skew the way his documentary came out.
Things changed when Weide met another documentary filmmaker Don Argott (Rock School, Art Of The Steal) in 2013, and together, they’ve been working on a version of the project which incorporates the relationship between interviewer and subject as part of its story.
“It’s still a film about Vonnegut,” says Don Argott, “but it’s also a film about the evolving relationship between filmmaker and subject, as well as the 30-year struggle to complete the very film you’re watching.”
The result is Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time, which is now looking for $250,000 worth of funding on Kickstarter.
With the requisite funds in place, Weide and Argott plan to finally finish what could be an intimate and informative film about one of the greats of modern American literature.
As an illustration of Vonnegut’s brilliance, here’s one of our favourite passages from his work. It’s taken from Breakfast Of Champions, and talks about a story written by one Kilgore Trout – the sci-fi author dreamed up by Vonnegut:
“One Trout story was about the failure to communicate. Here was the plot: a flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives communicate by means of farts and tap-dancing. Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down when he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap-dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golf club.”
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.