STARRING: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández,
Bárbara Goenaga, Nacho Vigalondo
2007, 92 Minutes, Directed by:
A man being pursued by a murderer stumbles into a mysterious lab and
accidentally travels back in time. A naked girl in the midst of the forest. A
cloaked stranger with his face covered in bandages. A disquieting mansion on the
top of a hill. All of them pieces of an unpredictable jigsaw puzzle where
terror, drama and suspense will lead to an unthinkable sort of crime. Who's the
murderer? Who's the victim?
Timecrimes is a rare
beast among contemporary sci-fi cinema – a self-contained piece where virtually
nothing of the world outside the protagonists’ immediate environment is
revealed. The lack of context enhances an already truly odd atmosphere which
hangs over the film. There is little point in trying to understand why any of
the events of the film happen. I have observed discussions in forums attempting
to do just that. Amusingly, these exchanges tend to go round in circles in much
the same way as the main man in the film – Héctor (played by Karra Elejalde)
does throughout the course of the film. Elejalde’s performance cleverly
maintains the delicate balance between the character’s desperation alongside the
comedic elements, which verge on slapstick at times.
As for understanding the plot -
Why should we expect to know why the events of this film occur when we don’t
know why anything, ever, occurred, and unrelentingly continues to do so. Perhaps
this is intentional on the writer’s part; an analogy for the biggest question
there is. Why does Héctor make a goggle shape with his fingers around his eyes
and stare at himself? I don’t know, and nor does he. But he has always done it,
and always will. Much like the Tralfamadorians’ experience of life in
Slaughterhouse 5, the implication is that everything
that will happen has already happened and always will have happened. To question
‘why’ is like a fraction with a denominator of zero – meaningless.
"There is little point in trying to understand why any of the events
of the film happen!"
I don’t necessarily think this
was the intention of the writer (though I’d be chuffed if it were!). But that is
largely irrelevant. The salient point here is that, as can now be witnessed by
all; it made me think. And it did this without having to depict the end of the
human race or nasty characters or monsters from hell. In fact, I found the film
to be uncommonly relaxing, partly due to the fact that from relatively early on
you have a pretty good idea of everything which is going to happen. I am not
going to go into the details of why this is the case, though the title of the
film is a pretty big clue so I can safely tell you it is somewhat similar to
Primer but with less of the darkly claustrophobic
atmosphere (and no cheesy montages!). If you want to find out what happens
without watching it then plenty of other reviews will be able to assist you.
The flipside of that built in
predictability is that there are points in the second half of the film which
feel a bit pedestrian in pace. If it were not for the artful camera work and the
location, which is simultaneously very normal but also engaging in its
incongruity, then it could be that boredom might set in. The story does not
really climax – it is more a case a leisurely stroll towards the conclusion.
Still, the nature of the story is such that there is little that can be done
about that and on balance, the problem is handled well. As a result of this
though, it is likely that the story would not be to everyone’s taste.
I gather that there is a
Hollywood remake in the works. It will be interesting to see how the challenges
detailed in the previous paragraph will be approached as I imagine the studio
will be keen to reach out to a mainstream audience. However, I can’t help but
feel that the money spent on such ventures would be better spent on funding new
features from the talent that created the work that Hollywood has obviously
picked up on as being innovative. After all – Timecrimes already exists
and always will do. Perhaps it always has.
- Geoff Clayton